Beau Rivage offers 50,000 square feet of meeting space
The Mississippi Gulf Coast boasts all the
amenities of a first-tier city at a fraction of the cost,
according to Beth Carriere, executive director of the
Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We probably offer more than Las Vegas does. I call it casino
gaming with a splash," Carriere says. "Because of today's
economic climate, it is difficult for corporate as well as
government meeting planners to find a location that is
attractive to attendees and will hold up to the scrutiny many
of today's meetings undergo. We're a destination that planners
can be confident is top quality and will not receive criticism
for appearing to be lavish."
Carriere understands the demands of the meeting planning
profession as she worked for Merrill Lynch Life Agency for
years, and planning meetings was a significant part of her job.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is known for its local seafood;
championship golf courses designed by the likes of Jack
Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Fazio; resort casinos; and an
array of water-sports. The culture is truly unique, as Spanish
moss, live oaks, and a Savannah feel combine with 11 casinos
offering 24-hour gaming and world-class entertainment, as well
as a beach community.
Add to the mix new facilities that were rebuilt after Hurricane
Katrina. There are approximately 13,000 hotel rooms in the area
as well as the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center
that offers more than 400,000 square feet of meeting space, the
Beau Rivage that offers 50,000 square feet for meetings, and
the IP Casino Resort Spa with more than 65,000 square feet.
Carriere adds that the CVB offers planners "one-stop shopping."
This includes assistance with site and accommodation selection,
event promotion, special event and theme party planning, and
complimentary on-site registration services and name badges.
"Add to the already excellent value we offer several monetary
incentives the CVB and state are offering, and there is no
better time to bring a meeting or incentive to the area," adds
Meeting planners report that another advantage to meeting in
the Mississippi Gulf Coast is ease of access. The
Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport completed a $56 million
expansion in February of 2008. Airlines such as United, Delta,
Northwest, and U.S. Airways offer direct service.
This is an area that knows how to throw a festival. One of the
newest is the Bridgefest, a yearly celebration commemorating
the opening of a vital new bridge that connects Bay St. Louis
with the rest of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The new bridge
replaces the one devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Another festival that is extremely popular is Cruisin' the
Coast, a classic car festival in October.
Carriere says meeting professionals are impressed with the
variety of off-site events that can be held in the Mississippi
Gulf Coast. From a huge bonfire on the beach complete with a
marshmallow or hot dog roast to pottery classes or culinary
lessons, there is a wide variety to choose from.
A popular group excursion is to the Barrier Islands of the
Mississippi Gulf Coast: Cat Island, Deer Island, Horn Island,
Petit Bois Island, and Ship Island. Fort Massachusetts, a
beautifully preserved brick fortification completed in 1868, is
on Ship Island. Each island offers its own unique history,
attributes, and enticing features. The islands are accessible
by private boat or public ferry.
One of Carriere's favorite venues for off-site functions is the
Biloxi Visitors Center on the beach three miles from the
convention center. It is a two-and-a-half-story
Antebellum-style home complete with columns and a wrap-around
porch. "The front veranda overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and one
of the oldest working lighthouses in the United States. At
sunset, the scene doesn't even look real," says Carriere.
Beauvoir, The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, an
Antebellum mansion and the last home of Jefferson Davis, has
been restored and furnished with period pieces, and is also
available for off-site events.