Wildlife tourism is already a $2 billion business in Mississippi. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on a new nature tourism effort on the Gulf Coast intended to boost that number even higher.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area is creating a management plan to help encourage the growth of nature-based tourism.
Rhonda Price is with the Department of Marine Resources, which oversees the coast national heritage area. She says they’d like the plan to encompass economic and workforce development.
"We would like to see something in our votech in our universities that focus on small business," she says. "How to start a small business if you're interested in starting a business in nature-based tourism - so that you give them the tools, the best management practices, that they can take to grow their business."
The plan may also include certification for ecotourism vendors, public outreach ideas and the creation of new trails. The DMR has a request for proposals out now for a firm to write the plan.
"Hopefully at the end, we can come out with a great management plan, hopefully move forward, maybe receive some Restore money to implement the plan, and just go from there," Price says."
State tourism director Malcolm White says he hopes the coast’s plan can provide a model that could be used statewide, including in Mississippi’s other two national heritage areas, in the Delta and the Hills area.
"I see this as the golden opportunity to prototype this emerging tourism initiative here on the coast," he says.
A 2013 report by the Environmental Defense Fund said wildlife tourism – such as fishing, hunting and birding – generates nearly $2 billion dollars in spending in Mississippi each year.