The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) recognized the impact and accomplishments of the state’s tourism industry at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held at the IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi, Mississippi this November 30–December 2, 2020.
This annual educational and professional development event brought together more than 120 tourism industry professionals from across the state as well as tourism partners from the surrounding region. The awards program gives MTA the opportunity to recognize the best of the best from their 200+ member organizations. Awards were presented in 15 categories, each focusing on a different aspect of the hospitality industry or individual achievement.
The MTA Governmental Tourism Leadership Award is presented to the person or government entity that supports tourism and helps attract visitors while working with their tourism partners. This year’s recipient was Oxford’s Mayor Robyn Tannehill, who is no stranger to the tourism industry.
Tannehill has spent most of her professional career growing Oxford’s tourism product. After working for the chamber of commerce and economic development foundation, she went on to serve as the tourism council’s executive director. In this role, she oversaw the creation of the Double Decker Arts Festival, a festival that started out with only a handful of artisans, food vendors, and musicians performing on the bed of a pickup truck and is now a powerhouse event with an attendance of more than 60,000 people.
During her tenure with the tourism council, it was named Mississippi’s Most Outstanding Tourism Bureau with a budget of more than $500,000. Since then, Tannehill was elected mayor of Oxford and has kept tourism at the top of her list of priorities. Whether loaning her office to a film crew for a William Faulkner documentary, moderating a panel at Oxford’s first women’s empowerment conference, or spearheading a Friday-night outdoor concert on the Square to drive foot traffic to the downtown restaurants and shops, she has a knack for taking ideas and turning them into successful, large-scale experiences that drive tourism.
“We have an on-going dialogue of ways to improve the visitor experience, how to get locals more involved and additional programming that we can help implement and/or market. Robyn just ‘gets it’ when it comes to tourism and the economic impact it has on our community,” said Visit Oxford Executive Director and MTA member, Kinney Ferris.
That economic impact that tourism plays for the city of Oxford and Lafayette county has seen continued growth over the past ten years. In 2019, tourism spending hit an all-time high at $177.3 million. Total tax dollars attributed to tourism amounted to $16.2 million and supported more than 2,200 jobs in the Oxford community. “Oxford is a top tier destination in Mississippi and it is always helpful to have leadership that supports our efforts; that’s why it was a no-brainer for the Visit Oxford office to nominate Robyn for this much-deserved award in Tourism Leadership.” said Ferris.
When COVID-19 presented an unprecedented set of challenges, she was cast into the national spotlight and recognized as a trailblazer for her aggressively proactive and preventative measures to govern safe travels.
Other accolades include her appointment by Philip Gunn, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, to serve on the commission to select the design of the state’s new flag. She was named “Business Woman of the Year,” a “Top 40 Under 40,” one of the top 50 businesswomen in Mississippi and the University of Mississippi‘s “Young Alumnus of the Year.”
“These recognitions should be given to our tourism industry leaders who we value for their talents and achievements through their outstanding accomplishments. We are happy to have the opportunity to honor the winners of these awards as we truly appreciate their dedication not only to our organization but to the entire tourism industry, the state’s fourth largest industry,” said Kelli Davis, 2020–2021 president of MTA.
For more information on MTA or Mississippi tourism, visit www.mstourism.com or www.visitmississippi.org.
The Mississippi Tourism Association is an association comprised of tourism professional established to support and empower Mississippi’s tourism industry through advocacy and education. Membership is open to those in the hospitality industry as well as pubic service organizations and allied businesses.