Training course helps hospitality industry better attract visitors

By Al Showers, Reporter

Workers on the front lines of the hospitality industry will be molded into Coast Champs after going through a special training course offered by leaders at Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The course will help make sure local tourism leaders are equipped with the tools needed to assist travelers visiting the area. Coast Champions hope these courses will translate into more tourism dollars being spent here.

Enticing snapshots that paint an inviting picture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast helps attract tourists here, but Coast Champions say it's making sure they leave with a positive experience to talk about that will encourage them to return.

"Our goal is to help you all encourage people to come to the coast, spend one more night on the coast, and to promote tourism along the Gulf Coast," said one tourism guest speaker.

"Whenever we have the trainees come in, we will be sure to talk to them about the visitor profile, the economic development, the economic impact," said another tourism leader. "So they are going to get a lot of exposure to not just the things to do in the area, but we are really going to focus on what is the visitor really looking for."

The way he said to do that is to spend a little extra time with visitors to find out where their interests are. That, he says, will let the hospitality worker know where to send the tourists. 

"We've got a lot of opportunities to share information with the traveler and, like we said, they don't see boundaries, they see experiences," explained Renee Areng, executive director of Visit Mississippi's Gulf Coast. "So we want to make sure they get out and see as much as possible."

Overcoming the state's new religious freedom law if a visitor brings up the subject will also be addressed.

"Naturally, the hospitality industry is very open," said Areng. "We welcome everyone into our area restaurants and attractions so I think this is a perfect fit for the Coast Champions Program to be part of that.

Leaders say tourism has also gone high tech, using phone apps to help visitors maneuver around the various tourism attractions on the Coast much easier.

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