work of the newly created Center for Tourism and Economic Development
Research (CENTED) at The University of Southern Mississippi is filling
a critical need for one of the state's largest industries, and is
on its way to becoming a one-of-a-kind resource for tourism organizations
and economic developers.
created to be a repository for tourism-related data, CENTED's mission
has been expanded to include broader economic development work of
the former Gulf South Economic Research Center which was phased
out at the end of December. Organizationally, CENTED functions under
the auspices of the College of Business and Economic Development
of CENTED's mission will be a huge benefit for not only the Gulf
Coast, but the entire state, said CBED dean Dr. Harold Doty. "CENTED
now better addresses the needs of the economic development community
and those of the burgeoning tourism industry on the Gulf Coast.
The center will provide a mechanism to help exploit critical areas
of the tourism industry to the state's advantage," said Doty.
The focus on
tourism as a major priority by newly appointed Mississippi Development
Authority head Leland Speed seems to bode well for the state's industry,
said Dr. Tony Henthorne, CENTED director and professor of marketing.
really hasn't been paid the attention it deserves despite the money
it generates and jobs it creates. The focus has been on the casinos
because of the revenue and jobs they've brought into the state.
We need to look now at developing the spillover," said Henthorne.
tourism/recreation generated $6.4 billion in 2002, up 2.2 percent
from $6.3 billion the previous fiscal year. The industry employs
nearly 100,000 Mississippians and is the state's second-largest
service sector employer. Nationwide, travel and tourism is a $537
billion industry with 7.9 million direct U.S. jobs.
fishing to golf to rural tourism, Henthorne says there is fertile
ground for expansion of tourism in Mississippi. "We've become
rather stagnant in the field of tourism. There was a big push when
the casinos came in, but now we have to move to the next stage.
We have to be able to move the state forward, bringing in more people,
jobs and money. Tourism is the second-largest service sector employer
in the state, and the number of Mississippi citizens employed in
the industry is sure to increase," said Henthorne.
Henthorne said Mississippi ought to be a mecca for rural tourism.
"Every little town has something unique that sets it apart.
We ought to be able to bring these aspects together in a coordinated
effort for the state."
to becoming a vocal advocate for the tourism industry, CENTED is
working to develop an online database of tourism information at
the state, regional, national and international levels, said Henthorne.
This information will be useful to commercial developers, economic
developers, tourism officials and academic researchers, he said.
will be working closely with the Center for Community and Economic
Development, located on the Hattiesburg campus. Director Mark Goodman
welcomes the opportunity to partner on a variety of projects including
tourism market studies, retail analysis and tourism impact studies.
excited about the opportunity to work with CENTED. Tourism is a
component of economic development so our partnership is a natural
one," said Goodman.
For more information
about CENTED, contact Henthorne at (228) 214-3248. The office is
on the Gulf Park campus at 117 Beach Park Place in Long Beach.