New tourism director comes to South Mississippi from Baton Rouge

meperez@sunherald.comJune 24, 2014 

BILOXI -- Renee Areng, the assistant director of tourism for Visit Baton Rouge, was selected Tuesday to be the new executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The board asked her to start the job by Aug. 1 at a salary of $130,000.

Her appointment follows a seven-month search after Beth Carriere resigned in November.

After trying to find a director on its own, the board hired a search firm that tapped Areng as a candidate.

Areng had worked as convention marketing manager at the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, experience that was among the qualifications the board wanted in a new director.

Rich Westfall, who chaired the selection committee, said Areng has a number of qualities that make her the right person for the job.

"I think it's her years of experience, her leadership in the Baton Rouge market, her knowledge of destination marketing and her convention and visitors bureau experience," he said. As Baton Rouge is a competitor of South Mississippi for tourism dollars, he said she already knows the Coast market well.

Several of the board members said the fact that she can step right into the job and get to work is very appealing.

"In the long run, we felt that she has the tools and experience to take our destination to the next level," Westfall said.

"We had to get it right," said Duncan McKenzie, Coast CVB chairman. Baton Rouge has experienced great growth in the past several years, he said. "She's coming from a hot market."

The board is moving ahead on a new advertising campaign and a new slogan -- "Stay awhile. You'll get it" -- that is undergoing trademark review.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, board member George Schloegel said the grass along the interstates is being cut ahead of the holiday weekend. Board member Bill Holmes said about 9,000 people will be in South Mississippi his weekend for Living Proof Live at the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

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