The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) recognized the impact and accomplishments of the state’s tourism industry at the annual awards program held during Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Tunica last week. The Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), a division of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, was honored with two awards at the event – Tourism Partnership of the Year and Small Festival/Event of the Year.
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.
“It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to celebrate these talented members who work tirelessly for their communities 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.
First, the Starkville CVB’s work with Visit Oxford to form The Cities of the SEC was awarded this year’s Tourism Partnership of the Year. This recognizes effective partnerships among entities within the tourism industry. Examples would include partnerships successfully impacting any of the following: marketing, advocacy, education and development. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has been a pioneer in integrating higher education and athletic competition. As coordinated and cohesive as the universities in the SEC have been, there has not been coordination between the cities of the SEC.
Proving Bulldogs and Rebels can be friends, Starkville and Oxford worked together to organize a meeting of the tourism directors in all 14 SEC cities. Since forming the Cities of the SEC in 2021, the group has worked with the Southeastern Conference to create blogs, social media content and a video highlighting the cities. Using their collective budgets and knowledge, this group can accomplish more together than they could have on their own.
Second, Starkville’s King Cotton Crawfish Festival received the 2022 Small Festival/Event of the Year.The award for small festival or event is awarded to a unique festival or event that is well attended, attracts a large variety of visitors and is well publicized. This category recognizes events with less than 5,000 guests in attendance.
The King Cotton Crawfish Boil has tripled both in the number of teams and attendees since it began in 2015. Hotel occupancy for this year’s event saw an 8.6 percent increase over the previous year and with a higher average daily rate (ADR). Twenty teams competed for the 2022 Crawfish King title, with Mississippi State University head football coach Mike Leach crowning the winner.
“We work tirelessly every day to promote Starkville as a visitor destination. To have that work recognized by our industry association is truly an honor. These awards are the product of a team effort! The King Cotton Crawfish Festival committee spends countless hours planning to ensure a fantastic event for attendees and they deserve all the praise. Working with our peers at Visit Oxford to bring all 14 SEC cities together has been one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on,” said Starkville Director of Tourism, Paige Hunt.
In addition to the Starkville CVB’s awards, Senator Bart Williams of Starkville, Mississippi, was awarded the 2022 Governmental Tourism Leadership Award. This is awarded to a government entity or leader that supports tourism and helps attract visitors while working with their tourism partners. Examples of government entities include but are not limited to state legislators, local government officials such as mayors, alderman/supervisors, city and county clerks, etc.
“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 continued success,” said Chris Chapman, 2022-2023 president of MTA.