Established in 1990, the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission (HTC), doing business as VISITHATTIESBURG™, is the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) of the City of Hattiesburg, VISITHATTIESBURG™. Created to promote the Greater Hattiesburg Area and its tourism product mix to potential visitors, the mission of VISITHATTIESBURG™ is to increase the economic impact of these visitors on our local economy. By marketing Hattiesburg's existing attractions, such as the Longleaf Trace Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Project, the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum and Hattiesburg's Historic Downtown, just to name a few, VISITHATTIESBURG™ has grown the local tourism industry to over $227 million in value to our local economy.
In 2002, a pivotal point for VISITHATTIESBURG™ occurred with the undertaking of a 16-month research and branding project. Specifically, the study was conducted to develop a BrandPrint™ for VISITHATTIESBURG™ to use in its marketing efforts. Quantitative and qualitative research, including a PRIZM report, helped VISITHATTIESBURG™ to identify Hattiesburg's key markets, consumer behavior habits of those markets and the best message and tactics for appealing to those markets. In October of 2003 the results of this study were unveiled and the current tourism branding campaign, utilizing the persona of Hattie to convey Hattiesburg's warmth and hospitality, was introduced.
Since then, the VISITHATTIESBURG™ staff has been diligently working to implement the BrandPrint™, which includes a logo, tagline and advertising campaign. With implementation of the BrandPrint™, many exciting projects have emerged, and the "look" of tourism has evolved into a recognizable brand with a consistent message which appeals to Hattiesburg's target markets. Having been recognized by 7 distinguished awards within our industry since the implementation of the BrandPrint™, Hattiesburg is leading the way in tourism marketing and development within the region.
On March 31, 2004, another benchmark for tourism was made when VISITHATTIESBURG™ officially opened the doors to their new home in the Hattiesburg Visitors Center. The opening of the Visitors Center further complemented the marketing goals of VISITHATTIESBURG™ by providing the DMO with an identifiable "face." The Hattiesburg Visitors Center epitomizes the message of the branding strategy . . . when visiting our area, what stands out above all is the warmth, friendliness and hospitality so uniquely characterized by Hattiesburg's people. Since we opened, over 40,000 visitors have signed the guestbook at the Visitors Center and been welcomed with Hattiesburg's trademark hospitality.
Finally, serving as the host city for notable events such as 1996 Pre-Olympic Training and the Mississippi Miss Hospitality Pageant, Hattiesburg has been exposed to additional visitors and tourists both regionally and nationally. Furthermore, the continuous development of tourism infrastructure, such as the Lake Terrace Convention Center and the refurbishment of the historic Saenger Theater (just to name a few), continues to further the work of VISITHATTIESBURG™ in the growth of tourism both in economic scale and in visible importance to the quality of life of Hattiesburg.