Do you own or operate a nature-based tourism business in coastal Mississippi? Do you make every effort to celebrate the area’s natural resources while protecting clean water, reducing litter and providing a safe experience for your guests? If so, mark your calendars for Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, and plan to join us in Gulfport for a full day of valuable (but free!) information and learn how to become an Official Gulf Coast Outpost.
In December 2004, President George Bush signed the law creating the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (MGCNHA), which includes the six coastal counties of Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, Stone and George. The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources serves as the coordinating entity in consultation with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
What exactly is the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area? According to the MGCNHA website, it is “a partnership of communities, businesses, governmental entities, non-profit organizations, and individuals who value the region’s rich cultural and environmental diversity, history, natural beauty, and traditions…. Visitors [and residents] experience the Heritage Area through a set of integrated themes that forefronts the coast’s unique qualities and emphasizes the important role the region has played in the history of the United States.”
In conjunction with the MGCNHA designation, a Nature Tourism Summit was held in 2013 which resulted in the development of a formal Nature-based Tourism Plan for Coastal Mississippi. One of the proposed elements was the creation of a voluntary program designed to recognize nature-based tourism operators who are knowledgeable about our natural resources, who prioritize customer safety and who protect the natural environment. That program, known as the Gulf Coast Outpost, will officially launch on Wednesday, Nov. 29th, with the Gulf Coast Outpost Business Summit.
The Summit will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the West Side Community Center in Gulfport, and there is no cost to attend but registration is required (you may register here: bit.ly/gcosummit). The target audience is nature-based tourism businesses in the six coastal Mississippi counties and includes tour guides, charter boat operators, eco-fitness guides, outfitters, eco-lodges, museums, attractions, agritourism businesses and other businesses where nature-based activities are 50 percent or more of the primary business.
Attendees will learn about the Gulf Coast Outpost program and the availability of resources and training opportunities from several local business and tourism professionals and other industry leaders. Once an interested nature-based tourism business has completed the Gulf Coast Outpost Checklist and is recognized as an Official Gulf Coast Outpost, the business will have the opportunity to utilize materials such as door and window clings, counter cards, posters, maps and logos, as well as ready-to-use descriptions of area attractions and destinations. Recognized businesses will also be eligible to apply for the Heritage Community Grant funding.
If your business is interested in being a pioneer in this program, please click the link to register, and we will look forward to seeing you on Nov. 29. For more information, please contact Bridgette Varone (Bridgette.Varone@dmr.ms.gov or 228-523-4075) or me (firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-974-4634).