Every dollar spent on advertising by Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast returned $43 in spending in South Mississippi and $2 in taxes, according to an online survey of 1,000 travelers.
The $760,000 advertising campaign by the three-county tourism promotion agency provided a good awareness of what South Mississippi has to offer tourists, said Rick Cain, vice president of Longwoods International USA, the company that conducted the survey.
But he said Tuesday during a presentation at the Seafood & Maritime Industry Museum that the visitors' bureau has opportunities to make visitor perception better.
The survey compared travelers' perceptions of South Mississippi to competing destinations at beaches in Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and South Carolina cities.
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Most startling is the difference in attitude between those who have visited South Mississippi and those who haven't, he said.
"People who have been here have a much higher opinion of the Mississippi Gulf Coast," he said. "So that's objective number one. Gotta get them here."
The strengths of South Mississippi are it's affordable and the right distance for a weekend getaway, the survey showed. The weaknesses identified are it's perceived as not as well-known as competitors, not as popular with vacationers and isn't as fun as the other locations.
The survey also indicated what Cain told the tourism officials previously -- South Mississippi is perceived as an adult destination rather than a family market.
"When you have a bunch of casinos, it's not a family destination," he said. This isn't a negative, he said. Las Vegas does not promote to families, "but there are a lot of families that go to Vegas."
He said, "The good new is two-thirds of the sample has visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast sometime in their life," and 41 percent said they intend to return in the next year.
"We're seeing improvement in the tourism numbers," said Duncan McKenzie, who serves on the tourism board and is general manager of IP Casino Resort. Hotel stays, casino revenue and sales tax numbers are trending positive, which he said "are certainly the reality of this organization taking advantage of the tools we've been given."