The Mississippi Tourism Recovery Fund (MTRF) legislation was passed last year in response to COVID-19 as part of the CARES Act. The unique thing about the state’s tourism recovery fund compared to other states is that DMOs were awarded dollars to specifically use for marketing activities.
Marketing activities include multimedia marketing and advertising, including digital media, broadcast media and printed media, including travel publications, production, travel market sector analysis, consumer travel sentiment, public relations, communication strategy, direct sales bookings, group tour bookings, tourism development and administrative costs to execute marketing activities related to the business disruption effects of the COVID-19.
We spoke with several of our Mississippi clients to uncover what they were able to accomplish with their marketing dollars courtesy of MTRF.
Q: What were you able to accomplish with the extra funds you received from the Mississippi Recovery Fund? Is there anything specific you were able to achieve that you probably wouldn’t have without the extra money?
A: Gary Worsham, Visit Grenada – First and foremost, our typical budget wouldn’t allow us any opportunities to work with a digital marketing partner, so we were more than happy to partner with Advance Travel upon receiving those dollars. We were able to expose ourselves to new markets and demographics that we usually don’t have the capabilities for.
A: Jonathan Pettus, Visit Jackson– Everything. We were pretty much paused on all marketing activity due to the reallocation of our budget as a reaction to COVID-19. Until the relief funds were released, we were operating the best we could from a content standpoint for locals within our community. We utilized every dollar we were given to relaunch our marketing strategy.
A: Stratton W. Hall, Visit Natchez: We were able to hire a marketing agency for branding and got to plan and execute all the above that we wouldn’t have been able to do. Among the tactics we tested out, Spotify, OTT and gmail targeting were huge successes.
Q: Given the special circumstance of DMOs receiving extra funding this year, how did your strategy differ from your pre-pandemic strategy, and how was that reflected in the dollars received from the recovery fund?
A: Gary – We took advantage of the fact that everything Granada offers is outdoors and reflected that in our creative and messaging.
A: Jonathan – The ultimate strategy as far as who we target was similar. We launched new creative/campaign that focused on safely exploring Jackson and targeted younger audiences within our driving markets markets with more emphasis on reaching out to locals within our DMA.
A: Stratton – We pivoted to an awareness campaign; we only went dark for 7-10 days because we wanted people to continue thinking positively and about travel. Our strategy was to broaden markets as we targeted out to 7 hour drives vs 4 hour drives.
Q: Can you speak to the collective statewide effort of getting this legislation passed?
A: Gary – Getting this legislation passed is a direct result of DMOs across the state getting together. We realized that together we have the talent and ability to make things happen for our communities and have even formed a new, collaborative organization called Mississippi Destination Marketing Organization with its main focus making sure Mississippi DMOs stay in the forefront of what’s happening in tourism on the state and federal level.
A: Jonathan – It was a highly involved tactical approach. More than ever, collective tourism leaders came together and worked hard to lobby for these funds. Because of the success of what we accomplished last year, those same leaders are lobbying again to get additional funds for spring and summer.
A: Stratton – It was amazing that everyone was on board, and some really hard work was done to make this happen. Everyone from Southaven to Holly Springs to Pascagoula, all over the state. Everyone benefitted from it.
Q: What did you learn and/or what insights did you gain after your campaign was complete?
A: Gary – YouTube skippable video and SEM allowed us to realize how many people are attracted to outdoor opportunities as we outperformed standard benchmarks in every category.
A: Jonathan – Generally speaking we learned a lot – we took some tactics and figured out which were most effective and were able to see what didn’t work as well. Our local population appreciated our efforts for restarting attraction and hotel partners and to get out and about in a safe way. In the future we will definitely continue to focus on our local community as well as out-of-town visitors.
A: Stratton -Video worked so well for us! We were able to reach so many people with YouTube Trueview and OTT targeting that we wouldn’t have been able to do without MTRF.
Meet the Mississippi Tourism Professionals:
Gary Worsham Jonathan Pettus Stratton W. Hall
Executive Director Vice President of Marketing Director of Public & Community Relations