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Legislation aimed at improving tourism...

Legislation aimed at improving tourism in Mississippi still alive as session nears end

By: Anne Summerhays - March 24, 2023

In Fiscal Year 2022, tourism remained Mississippi’s fourth-largest industry and was a $7.1 billion producer for the state.

During the 2023 Mississippi Legislative session, there have been several bills introduced by lawmakers to improve tourism in the Magnolia State.

Some tourism related bills died during the 2023 Legislative session, including H.B. 565 which would have designed blue as the state color of Mississippi and S.B. 2513 which would have designated the American Quarter Horse as the “Official State Horse of the State of Mississippi.”

Other tourism related measures are still alive late in this session. Those include:

  • House Bill 419 – Provides assistance to destination marketing organizations. Destination marketing organizations are defined as special local governmental units created by local and private laws of the State of Mississippi for the purpose of tourism promotion, funded by special local tax levies, and staffed with professionals engaged in out-of-state tourism marketing and tourism product development for municipalities, counties and/or regions. The bill is currently in conference.
  • Senate Bill 2138 – Designates the Mississippi Opal as the state gemstone. The legislation was signed by the Governor on March 3rd.
  • Senate Bill 2137 – Designates each April as “Mississippi Native Plant Month.” The bill was approved by the Governor on March 6th.
  • Senate Bill 2139 – Creates the Mississippi USA Semiquincentennial Commission and Mississippi Semiquincentennial Celebration Fund. A signature is due from the Governor on March 28th.
  • Senate Bill 2511 – Brings forward section 57-123-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, which is the provision of law that requires the Department of Finance and Administration to establish a program for the purpose of providing funds to assist destination marketing organizations. The bill is currently in conference.
  • House Bill 704 – Provides incentives for certain television series production. The bill is currently in conference.
  • Senate Bill 2359 – The Mississippi Main Street Revitalization Grant Program Act authorizes the Legislature as well as the Department of Finance and Administration to make grants available to selected Main Street Designated Community programs for projects leading to the revitalization of Mississippi’s downtowns. The bill is currently in conference.
  • Senate Bill 2695 – Extends the deadline for the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) to issue certificates approving participants in the Tourism Project Incentive Program. The conference report has been filed.
  • House Bill 1027 – Designates the blueberry as the state fruit. The bill was approved by the Governor on March 14th.

On March 1st, the Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) hosted its annual Tourism Day at the Capitol. The event featured Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.

Governor Reeves thanked MTA for all of the hard work they do to share the beauty of Mississippi from visitors around the world.

“The multi-billion-dollar impact the tourism industry has on our economy is vital to our state’s success and helps to bolster great small businesses and strengthen vibrant local communities,” Reeves said. “You need only to look at how Mississippi led the nation in tourism recovery in 2020 to see the commitment that our state has to investing in and growing this industry. I look forward to continuing to work with you to help even more tourists fall in love with Mississippi.” 

Lt. Governor Hosemann said they are committed to ensuring Mississippi’s tourism economy not only recovers but continues to thrive.

“We have worked closely and intentionally with our tourism leaders around the state to ensure we keep this $7 billion industry growing because we know an investment in tourism also grows the state’s overall economy,” Hosemann said. “Having a strong tourism infrastructure is key to meeting our future economic development goals.”

Speaker Gunn said as Mississippi’s fourth-largest industry, tourism is not only an important economic driver that generates billions of dollars for the state, but it is our calling card to the world.

“The hospitality of our people makes Mississippi an incredible place to visit and to call home,” Gunn said. “Mississippi has been a national leader in tourism recovery and that is why the House of Representatives is committed to helping our tourism destinations around the state keep that recovery momentum going. This vital sector certainly contributes to our revenue surplus.”

Danielle Morgan, Executive Director of the Mississippi Tourism Association, recently wrote a column saying that tourism is the key to Mississippi’s economic future. She explained that in Fiscal Year 2022, tourism indeed remained Mississippi’s fourth-largest industry and was a $7.1 billion producer for the state, providing cash-in-hand economic development delivered instantly by visitors.

“Last year, tourism also supported 104,595 jobs and generated $749 million in state and local taxes. Tourism revenues also contributed $461 million or 6.42 percent to the $7.18 billion state general fund, which is approximately $1 of every $16,” Morgan wrote.

The Executive Director of the Mississippi Tourism Association said state lawmakers and public leaders should be applauded for recognizing the immense value tourism holds for Mississippi’s economic health and investing in its growth and vitality.

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: