Mississippi Tourism Association Spring Conference Report
The Focus Group had a great time joining tourism professionals from across the state for the Mississippi Tourism Association’s Spring Conference that was hosted in Greenwood Mississippi on March 7th & 8th. #TeamFocus Director of Digital Strategy Thomas Broadus and Account Executive Elizabeth Adams went to the event to hear the line-up of speakers and panelists, but also to represent a few of our Tourism clients – Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Biloxi-Gulfport International Airport and the Mississippi Seafood Trail.
The Opening Day
The opening session featured Mississippian Martha Foose who is a 2009 James Beard Award Honoree and a world traveler who calls Yazoo City Mississippi her home town. She has a knack for storytelling as well as cooking and earned the Southern Independent Booksellers Award for her book “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea.”
“This is one cookbook I would proudly have in my kitchen! It has great information and wonderful recipes!”
—Paula Deen, Food Network host and bestselling cookbook author
Martha’s energy set the tone for the rest of the day, and she easily weaved a story of her adventures that started in Yazoo City, Mississippi and lead her through New York, Los Angeles, and even Paris, France before she found her way back home to Mississippi. Check out her books and keep your eyes peeled, on The Chew, Good Morning America and more as she’s often a guest showing off her chef skills featuring recipes from her cook books.
After a few networking events and meetings we were off to the rustic Tallahatchie Flats. IF you’ve never heard of or visited the Tallahatchie Flats, it’s an experience. One of the most unique overnight locations in Mississippi, it offers the perfect place if you need a digital detox to get away from screen time and invest in a little me-time. We enjoyed live blues, hot tamales and fried green tomatoes while touring a few of the flats. If you’re an adventure hound, this is the place for you. If you enjoy being pampered, The Alluvian is just a short ride away.
Wednesday opened with a unique slate of presentations, and started with a company called Museum Hack where we heard from a company that was bringing people into museums and providing renegade tours asking patrons questions like – find the one person in one of these paintings that you want to party with, and then share with the group the story behind that party. Through encouraging cell phones and group interaction, they raised over $350,000 for The Met, and in just a few short years grew to an organization of 50 employees and they now work with museums all across the US. #funfact the T-rex was a clapper, not a slapper, and if that has you curious, ask them why on their twitter acct – https://twitter.com/MuseumHack.
Imagine using a little of this at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs with a beer tour, or playing a game of find your inner dinosaur at the Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, or have the kids write about their space mission inspired by the wall of space shuttle mission patches at the Infinity Science Center. Suddenly the patrons are active parts of the exhibits and not just passively looking. Mississippi has a rich list of museums throughout the State, and I’m sure many of the attendees learned a trick or two they can implement in their local museums.
Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration
Next up we had an update from Craig Ray, Director of Visit Mississippi, on Mississippi tourism plans for 2017, with the heart of the discussion being the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration. The Mississippi Bicentennial South Celebration kicks-off on March 31st.
Bicentennial Celebration South → http://ms200south.org
Mississippi Celebrating 200 Years → http://200.visitmississippi.org/ are both sites you should check out, and grab some free tickets while they last!
Lots of events are planned across the State with some big names being attached to the different events. Gulfport kicks it off first featuring The Band Perry, and then parties will be held in Oxford and Jackson later in 2017.
We were also treated to a sneak peak at the new branding and design elements for visitmississippi.org and their advertising materials for 2017. Pamela Weaver the CMO for the Mississippi Development Authority was excited to share a plan focusing on digital and capturing new audiences with more interest and behavioral targeting. We loved design elements it and totally agree on more digital.
Focusing on the WHY
The day was closed with Bill Giest from DMOProz where he spent some time discussing the evolution of travelers and how destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have to adapt to keep up with their competitors who are paying attention.
Bill wanted us to rethink HOW we market our destinations and took a page out of Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why” to make us think about WHY we market our destinations. Unique to each of the groups that attended the Spring MTA Conference was a WHY – from Greenwood’s rich eco-tourism, music and food opportunities to Biloxi’s gaming industry, the how we sell our opportunities could be very similar, but it’s the why people come to visit that’s different. We learned from several of his examples and can’t wait to start working them into our 2017 plans.
Time to Head Home
Thank you to all of the sponsors and the team from Visit Greenwood for hosting this year’s Spring MTA meeting and to all of the presenters from across the State and beyond. Here’s to seeing you at the 2017 Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism September 24-26, 2017, in Jackson.
In closing, The Focus Group would like to send out thoughts and prayers to the family, friends and co-workers of Janet Leach who passed away on Tuesday. One of her friends, Mike Davis, said it best. “She was passionate about life, family, Mississippi tourism and golf. God bless Janet Leach and her family.”