Thursday was Global Meetings Industry Day. The emphasis is on the economic impact conventions have on the business and tourism communities. South Mississippi is working to draw more events to the convention center and other venues.
Thursday morning the Mississippi Fire Investigators Association met at the Courtyard Marriott in Gulfport. Similar events are held regularly at casinos across the Gulf Coast. Larger conventions are booked at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. Large or small, the convention business can be lucrative.
At the Coastal Mississippi tourism office, CEO Milton Segarra crunched the numbers. The domino effect of conventions washes over a wide spectrum of the Gulf Coast’s overall economy.
“Every tourist dollar that comes to any destination most likely will touch between 14 and 17 different segments. Transportation, food and beverage, security to legal services or security services. It’s something that spreads across the entire economy,” Segarra said.
According to the website MeetingsMeanBusiness.com, conventions and other events generate $845 billion annually for the U.S. economy. Competition is keen in this business.
“A lot of communities are offering incentives,” said Convention Center Executive Director Matt McDonald. “They’re offering money to provide transportation. The communities that are doing that, get it. They understand that the economic impact of conventions is tremendous.”
Conventions are important because they provide opportunity beyond the high-traffic weekend periods.
“With more groups in town, we’ll create a new base of occupancy and visitors most likely on weekdays,” Segarra said.
The Coast Convention Center has been trying to put together a deal to bring a hotel to its property. That would be a key to attracting more convention business. Negotiations are continuing to make that happen.
“We’re in the process of vetting a contract with a developer out of New Orleans and Dallas, Texas,” McDonald said. “We’re not to the point where the contract is finalized. We’ve got to see upfront money. Until we see that, I don’t see us having a deal.”
Because the convention business is considered so important to the coast’s economy, some leaders are continuing to talk about building another convention center in east Biloxi.