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Released March 3, 2003

Southern MissGC, MTA START CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
FOR TOURISM PROFESSIONALS

Long Beach – The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) are teaming up to provide a state certification program for tourism professionals.

"The Mississippi Tourism Association is very excited to be partnering with The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast to develop a tourism certification program for Mississippi's tourism professionals," said Kathy Boutwell, executive director of MTA.

"Using the expertise of the faculty at Southern Miss Gulf Coast, we will provide valuable opportunities for tourism professionals in the Mississippi Tourism Association," she added.

The MTA Professional Certification program will be offered to MTA members who have worked professionally in the field. Program attendees will be required to attend a one-day orientation and a three-day on-campus educational session at Southern Miss's Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, followed by an examination.

"We started this program to increase our members' knowledge of the tourism industry and to increase their level of credibility, self-esteem, professionalism and image within the industry," said MTA member Ernie Wilson, associate chair and assistant professor of hospitality management at Southern MissGC. He will direct the MTA Professional Certification program.

Hospitality management faculty at Southern MissGC will provide the educational training and administer the examination.

"The partnership between MTA and Southern MissGC more closely links our hospitality

management program with the industry," Wilson said.

The on-site educational seminar will focus on tourism research, planning and development; determining economic impact; tourism marketing; budgeting and business planning; boards and other governing bodies; and funding sources.

"Whether you are looking for a new career or looking for advancement in your

current position in the tourism industry, the certification program will provide a full range of practical hospitality courses," Boutwell said. "Tourism is one of Mississippi's largest and fastest growing industries, employing 93,000 people."

The initial announcement of the MTA Professional Certification program was made at the annual Governor's Conference on Tourism, held in January at the Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis.

Also at that time, MTA's annual Vicki Miller Scholarship recipient was announced. Azlyn Ward, a senior hospitality management major at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, won the award. Ward, 17, of Biloxi, is the daughter of Nancy Ward.The $2,000 scholarship, named after the founder of MTA, goes each year to a deserving Southern Miss student majoring in hospitality management.

MTA Professional Certification applications will be processed next fall into January of 2004. The first orientation session is scheduled for January 2004, with the three-day on-campus educational session scheduled for July of that year.

For more information on the MTA Certification Program, contact Wilson at (228) 214-3240.

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July 16, 2003 9:13 AM

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