We wish the best for new tourism chief

Milton Segarra
Milton Segarra

The Coast will begin the new year with a new executive director at Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the tourism bureau for the three coastal counties.

Milton Segarra was chosen by the Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast board after several months of searching for just the right person for the job. It sounds like they’ve found a winner. We certainly hope so.

Segarra ran Meet Puerto Rico, the convention and tourism bureau for the island with a population of 3.4 million. There he was the CEO of a staff of 29 and he oversaw a budget of $6.2 million. He is credited with bringing the bureau into the digital age of marketing and social media. His 30 years experience includes membership on the board of Destinations International and its finance committee.

He is a Certified Destination Management Executive.

The Coast, primarily a regional destination, has long yearned for a bigger and better piece of the tourism action, wanting to be something more. Segarra could be the person to take us there.

“We took our time with the search to find the perfect candidate to bring the Coast to the next level,” Bill Holmes Sr., president of the Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast board, told the Sun Herald. “Our board is confident that Milton is indeed the best qualified person to accomplish the goals set forth in the Gulf Coast 2020 initiative.”

We have overcome a lot. Katrina, The Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Great Recession. But, we’re still feeling the after-effects.

So here’s one issue Segarra will have to get up to speed on quickly: the $750 million BP settlement for economic damages. Much of that damage was inflicted on our tourism industry. We have to make the case to the Legislature that that money is crucial to help that segment of our economy bounce all the way back.

Time and again we’ve heard that what the Coast needs is more family oriented attractions. Our casinos have brought us a long way from the pre-casino beach towns of the 1980s. But they are primarily adult attractions. We believe more things there are for the adults to do with their children, the longer they’ll stay on the Coast.

We have taken some pretty big steps in that direction with Magaritaville, MGM Park, our youth sports complexes, the Mississippi Aquarium that’s expected to open in 2019 and some smaller attractions, such as Big Play. But we have not yet arrived.

There is much competition in this area for tourism dollars and we have to bring our A game to compete. Segarra has a crucial role.

“So much has been accomplished here and I am excited to be part of the team that will move the brand forward and create even greater awareness of all there is to offer along our beautiful Coast,” Segarra said after his hiring was announced. We can’t wait to hear the details of his plans and learn what we can do to help.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.