With the creation of the Center for Tourism and Economic Development
Research (CENTED), The University of Southern Mississippi
has positioned itself to take the lead in research, service
and education for one of the world's fastest-growing industries.
importance of tourism in the state of Mississippi cannot be
overstated," said center Director Tony Henthorne, a professor
of marketing and director of the Institute for Service Excellence
at Southern Miss. "Currently, 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."
on the Gulf Coast, the heart of the gaming industry in Mississippi,
CENTED will strive to improve the tourism product, increase
the benefits of the tourism industry and foster an understanding
of the role tourism plays in economic development.
here in the United States and around the world, the travel
and tourism industry is an engine for economic development.
Therefore, while reporting to the provost of the Southern Miss Gulf
Park campus, CENTED will extend its reach regionally, nationally
and globally, university officials said.
positions Southern Miss to lead the way in examining the relationship
between the entire tourism industry and long-term economic
development -- not just along the coast of Mississippi, but
worldwide" Gulf Coast Provost Tim Hudson said.
alone, the travel and tourism industry employed more than
18 million people in the United States at an annual payroll
of $259 billion, making it the second-largest employer in
the nation. Worldwide, tourism is estimated to employ more
than 200 million people, both directly and indirectly, with
5.5 million new jobs anticipated by 2010.
the last 10 years, world tourism has increased more than 65
percent and tourism in the Caribbean region has grown 100
percent during the same period. CENTED will act as a central
repository and resource base for data relating to the tourism
industry, Henthorne said.
the tourism industry has grown even more dramatically, in
large part because of gaming. Before 1992, when casinos first
appeared in Biloxi, that city attracted approximately one
million visitors a year. Eight years after the advent of gaming,
Biloxi tourism served more than 22 million visitors. Currently,
gaming revenues comprise approximately 44 percent of all state
tourism and recreation income.
now, the gaming industry has "been lacking a serious
research center," said Beverly Martin, executive director
of the Gulf Coast Gaming Association. "Southern Miss has done research
in the past -- a study for the state Legislature on the impact
of gaming so apparently they are well versed and articulate
on the issues," she said. "We look forward to utilizing
this local research center with future projects."
Mississippi tourism generated $6.1 billion in 2000, which
exceeded the $5.6 billion from the previous fiscal year. Employing
almost 100,000 Mississippians, the tourism industry is the
state's second-largest service sector employer.
was created, in part," Henthorne said, "to help
get out the word regarding this vital sector. As Mississippi's
tourism image and reach continues to grow and expand beyond
our borders, so will CENTED's."
CENTED is a nonacademic program, it will work closely with
the university's Master's of Economic Development degree program
to develop a specialized tourism track and involve students
in research projects. Within three years, CENTED aims to enlist
at least 25 students in this program.
said that since he assumed the role of Gulf Coast provost
last July, he has been working hard to find ways in which
Southern Miss can be more directly involved in meeting the
needs of the community and contributing to economic development.
will be a bridge to one of our major industries while providing
our students an opportunity to engage in meaningful research.
The plan is for CENTED to become self-supporting through competitive
research contracts and training programs within the next three
to five years," Hudson said.
Rohrlack Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development
Authority and a Southern Miss alumnus, said Mississippi's network of
colleges and universities is instrumental in helping the MDA
pursue fresh economic development opportunities for the state.
at The University of Southern Mississippi will be the latest
partner in our statewide efforts to implement innovative strategies
to attract both leisure travelers and industrial developers
to the state. The work at CENTED will complement and enhance
our ongoing cluster studies and impact analyses," Rorhlack