The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) recognized the impact and accomplishments of the state’s tourism industry at the annual tourism awards program held during Governor’s Conference on Tourism at Caesar’s Entertainment Horseshoe Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi, October 19–21, 2022. This annual educational and professional development event brought together around 200 tourism industry professionals from across the state as well as tourism partners from the surrounding region.
These awards give MTA the opportunity to recognize members who excel in various sectors of the industry. Awards were presented in 17 categories, each focusing on a different aspect of the hospitality industry or individual achievement. Visit Oxford earned three statewide industry awards: Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) of the Year for budgets ranging $500,000 to $999,000, Large Festival/Event of the Year and Tourism Partnership of the Year.
“It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to celebrate these talented members who work tirelessly for their com munities and organizations. These awards are very competitive and that is a testament to the caliber of work being produced by our partners and the overall strength of Mississippi tourism. It is our honor to work together with these outstanding professionals to continue to grow and prosper our industry,” said MTA Executive Director, Danielle Morgan.
Visit Oxford’s first award, DMO of the Year, honors a tourism office with a budget of $500,000 to $999,000, which is recognized for outstanding efforts in destination marketing and management through strategies and initiatives that generate visitation and contribute to the overall success of their destination.
Lauded by ESPN as “America’s Best College Town,” Oxford celebrated a record-breaking year. Visit Oxford’s accomplishments this year were not limited solely to events, though from both a marketing and economic standpoint, they were the definition of “success.” With a small staff of only four full-time employees, Visit Oxford ensured that tourism flourished this past year, thanks in large part to targeted marketing campaigns that produced demonstrable results; a burgeoning social media follower base and significant engagement rate; well-attended, carefully executed events; and strategic collaborations with a variety of tourism partners that successfully amplified visitation and generated tourism revenue for the city of Oxford.
Growth was the theme of the year, from digital marketing campaign success, to a surge in followers across all social media platforms, and more people came out to their signature events than ever before. As a testament, hotel occupancy, visitor spending, and overall revenue generated was up 44 percent from the previous year.
Recently, Visit Oxford took home the Southeast Tourism Society’s coveted Shining Example Award for Tourism Office of the Year.
Visit Oxford’s second award was Large Festival/Event of the Year for this year’s Double Decker Arts Festival. This is awarded to a unique festival or event that is well attended, attracts a large variety of visitors and is well publicized. This category is for events with over 5,000 in attendance.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Double Decker has become one of the state’s most well-attended, well-known, and loved events. More than 112,000 people from 35 states attended this annually anticipated event. This year’s attendance nearly doubled from previous years. The festival celebrates all things Oxford: great art, great music, and great food. With 2022’s festival being the comeback year after the pandemic, festival maps, posters, tees, and hats were produced and distributed in large volumes. Hotel revenues reflected the crowds that filled the streets. With hotel occupancy over 90 percent and more than $700,000 in revenue on hotels alone, the economic impact of the Double Decker Arts Festival was massive. The Food and Beverage revenue from the month of the festival was the highest in the DMO’s history.
Visit Oxford was also awarded Partnerships of the Year for their work with Cities of the SEC. Proving Bulldogs and Rebels can be friends, Starkville and Oxford decided to call a meeting of the tourism directors reaching out to all 14 destination marketing organizations in the SEC. By the spring of 2021, the group had its first Zoom meeting to share best practices that could be duplicated across the region. The take away was that while the SEC had been successful at playing on the field, there was opportunity for a more coordinated effort to let visitors know more about the sporting destinations. By coming together as The Cities of the SEC, the group had the ear of the SEC to lay out their ideas and goals. To start, each destination provided the SEC with a blog post highlighting dining, shopping, and attractions giving fans a blueprint of the best things to do outside of the game. These were rolled out across all of the SEC’s media platforms over a two-week period.
Because of the success of this campaign, the group was determined to capitalize on the momentum by scheduling an in-person meeting with the SEC Communications team and sponsoring a luncheon at SEC Media Days. This gave them an opportunity to get in front of more than 100 credentialed media to tell the story of these 14 cities. Using their collective budgets and knowledge, this group was able to accomplish more together than they could have on their own. While the partnership is in its beginning stages, it has already made a meaningful impact.
“The tourism industry in Mississippi is filled with accomplished professionals who have a genuine passion for making their individual communities and state better places to visit, live, and work. We honor their tremendous contributions to Mississippi’s fourth-largest industry, and we are grateful for their strong support of Mississippi Tourism Association’s mission to unite all sectors of the tourism industry through advocacy, education, and promotion. We wholeheartedly congratulate all of our award winners for their outstanding accomplishments and wish them contin ued success,” said Chris Chapman, 2022–2023 president of MTA.