New Coast tourism director starts rockin’ the boat
We know “Virginia is for lovers” and “I ♥ New York.”
They are the top two state tourism slogans in the country, but do you know the slogan for Mississippi? How about the Mississippi Coast?
But the new tourism director of Visit MS Gulf Coast wants to change that.
“We’re going to rock the boat a little bit. But we need to do it,” said Milton Segarra at his first meeting in January. He comes to the Coast from the tourism agency in Puerto Rico, which was recently ravaged by a hurricane.
On Thursday, at his second meeting, he got a unanimous vote to study whether it’s time for “a revolution” of the Coast brand.
“It’s very important that we define and continue the evolution of our brand,” he said.
The current slogan for South Mississippi is “Stay awhile. You’ll get it.” Most people probably don’t get it since there isn’t anything in those five words that connect it to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The state’s slogan got honorable mention as one of the best from Slogan Slingers, but the website isn’t sure if “Mississippi — Find Your True South” actually is the right slogan. A web search for Mississippi tourism says the state is the “Birthplace of America’s Music.”
“Mississippi was one of less than a handful of states that did not reply to our request to provide their current slogan,” Slogan Slingers said. “However, the last one we found on record was pretty darn strong. We threw ‘Find Your True South’ into the voting as an unofficial entry and it scored enough points that it would have made our top 10.”
Plan of action
Segarra wants a new brand in place by the beginning of September.
His plan engages a company that conceives brands for destinations around the world. It also assembles an impartial customer advisory board of about a dozen executives in tourism-related companies to create a “phenomenal think tank.”
He expects it could take an investment of $29 million over five years to elevate the brand and help promote events that bring tourists.
A $45,000 grant from BP is set aside to pay for the initial work, he said, and the Coast needs to put together a strong proposal for the BP oil spill money .
‘The most important thing’
Segarra has met with all 12 mayors, county supervisors and several casino general managers. He also sent out a 2018 Brand Development Survey to about 1,000 people in the Coast tourism industry to get their impressions of creating a brand.
Just 164 people responded to the survey, but he said every one of them answered the question, “What is the most important thing you would tell potential visitors to get them to visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast?”
The challenge will be to sum up South Mississippi in just a few words.
“Georgia on my Mind” and “Sweet Home Alabama” have sticking power. Las Vegas has seen great success with its “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” slogan.
“Be authentic and be unique,” was the advice Pascagoula native Butch Spyridon, now CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., gave to Coast tourism leaders when he came home to the Coast in October.
When he arrived in Nashville 25 years ago, “We had a nickname — The Music City — but we didn’t have a brand,” he said. He set out to gave Nashville its identity and helped put it on the list of top destinations in the world.
Even small towns can play up their assets with a brand that tells about the place. Collinsville, Illinois is the “Horseradish Capital of the World” and Yahoo Travel says Pontotoc, Mississippi is one city that used the original meaning of its name in its slogan. “Who wouldn’t want to visit the “Land of Hanging Grapes?” Yahoo Travel asks.
What do you think the Mississippi Coast’s brand should be?
South Mississippi’s 10 best traits
Coast officials who answered a survey ranked these as South Mississippi’s key personality traits:
4. Family friendly
9. Adult playground
Visit MS Gulf Coast