Every visitor could be a walking, talking ad for the Coast. How do we make that happen?

A family goes through the space gallery at Infinity Science Center in Hancock County.
A family goes through the space gallery at Infinity Science Center in Hancock County. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

We are not the family destination we hoped to be — at least not in the eyes of folks who haven't been to the Mississippi Coast.

That's not a message we like to hear but it's one we need to hear. We commend Visit MS Gulf Coast for commissioning the survey by Longwood International that brought that message home.

It's a message that there is work to be done. It shows a deficiency that can easily be remedied. All it usually takes to win people over is one visit. We just need to lure more tourists that first time.

There is a more troubling aspect to the survey, the feeling among potential visitors that they're not sure they'd be welcome. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Still, we are part of Mississippi and the state does have a lingering image problem. And much of the image problem is self-inflicted, caused by unnecessary laws that discriminate — HB 1523 for example.

We can overcome that image, though. We trust Visit MS Gulf Coast is on the right track with plans for a marketing campaign that highlights our family friendly attractions.

"We have the best of the best to do this with us," Visit MS Gulf Coast CEO Milton Segarra told us. "We're creating perhaps the future, the foundations of a brand that certainly could transform this destination."

Part of that transformation should be to expand the market to capture those people who don't see the Coast as a family destination.

We have many places that are fun for families. We just have to get the word out.

Kim Fritz is right. Some of our best attractions aren't the most visible. This is another problem that should be easily fixed.

Thousands upon thousands of people visit the Coast's casinos each year. We should send them home with the impression that the casinos are great but they aren't the only game in town.

And, we have to double-down on our efforts to live up to the nickname, the Hospitality State.

Every out-of-towner we meet is a potential advertisement for the Coast.

People are inclined to remember and talk about the good times they had when they return home.

We want them to tell friends about Infinity Science Center and the the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. About Ship Island and Ocean Adventures Marine Park. And Margaritaville and Big Play.

We have plenty to talk about. We all can help make sure our visitors know that.

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