SUN HERALD | Editorial: Areng will have an even better Coast to market

June 28, 2014 

The new executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau has the type of hands-on experience this market needs.

Renee Areng is now the assistant director of tourism for Visit Baton Rouge. She has also been the convention marketing manager at the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission,

By Aug. 1, she is expected to be on the Coast at the helm of the year-old regional tourism bureau.

And what a region she has to promote.

The gaming industry is about to expand into D'Iberville with the Scarlet Pearl Casino.

Eco-tourism is about to reach a new level with the construction of the $1.6 million Pascagoula River Audubon Center in downtown Moss Point.

The Coast's heritage is about to be showcased in the soon-to-open Biloxi Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.

New venues will showcase both local and touring bands, including Kress Live at Vieux Marche in Biloxi and the Great Lawn at Harrah's Gulf Coast in Biloxi.

Areng is expected to immediately put these and other Coast assets to good use in attracting visitors to South Mississippi.

Rich Westfall, who chaired the committee that selected Areng, said she 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. "In the long run, we felt that she has the tools and experience to take our destination to the next level."

Part of reaching that next level will be marketing the Coast as a region that keeps getting better and better to visit. "Our greatest value proposition is the diversity of experiences we offer -- beaches, eco-tourism, entertainment, conventions, golf, food, nightlife, gaming, attractions, sports," said John Hairston, who pushed for years to get a regional tourism marketing agency for the Coast.

As Hairston told the Sun Herald's Mary Perez, bringing together all these things and making it easy to market and sell the combined experiences is the only way to change South Mississippi from a summer weekend destination into a four-season, 7-day destination.

Welcome to the Coast, Ms. Areng. We look forward to working with you to make South Mississippi a destination for all seasons.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.

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