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, Miss. this week. As a top honor, Marlo Dorsey, Executive Director of VisitHATTIESBURG, was awarded MTA Member of the Year.
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 organization. Awards were presented in 15 categories, each focusing on a different aspect of the hospitality industry or individual achievement.
MTA cited Dorsey as being a tireless crusader for tourism - at both the local and state levels - for nearly her entire professional career.
“Hillary Clinton famously said, ‘It takes a village.’ When Mississippi’s destination marketing community needed $13.5 million in CARES Act funding, no village required, just Marlo Dorsey,” Webster Franklin, President and CEO, Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “I have been in awe of Marlo’s tireless effort on behalf of MS’s tourism industry – no task, large or small, was overlooked by Marlo as she led the charge in the MS legislature to give her colleagues and communities across our state the much needed lifeline to invite visitors back to Mississippi in a safe and responsible manner.”
In March 2020, the Mississippi tourism industry was faced with its biggest crisis to date when COVID-19 reduced visitor spending by $2 billion and the state's DMOs took an unprecedented revenue decline. Dorsey wasted no time in pursuing CARES Act grant funding. Through Legislative HB1790 and 1791, she advocated for funding on behalf of the tourism industry, and in July, the State of Mississippi was awarded a $14 million Tourism Recovery Grant Fund.
“I’m incredibly honored and was very surprised to have been selected as Member of the Year for the Mississippi Tourism Association. This year has been the most critical and challenging of times we have ever experienced for our industry, and I’ve seen the countless hours of our tourism partners throughout the state,” Dorsey said. “Together, we’ve tried to pivot, stay safe, stay open, and do our part to save as many jobs as we possibly can. We know there’s much work to still be done, but whatever the future holds for tourism, we are going to go after it or tackle it together. This year has taught us the value of our collective voices, and I am blessed to be surrounded by some amazingly talented tourism professionals.”
In her current role as executive director for VisitHATTIESBURG, she leads Hattiesburg's destination marketing efforts through strategic multi-state marketing campaigns, regional sales strategies, tourism development, and cooperative alliances with Hattiesburg's hotel and tourism partners. For these efforts, VisitHATTIESBURG received an MTA Tourism Achievement Award in 2019 and Campaign of the Year in 2017.
Prior to her roles in Hattiesburg’s tourism sector, Dorsey was the chief marketing officer for the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), where she led the state's global marketing and communications efforts for both economic development and tourism. At MDA, Dorsey was named to the Hurricane Katrina 10-year anniversary public relations team, which created several award-winning marketing campaigns. Likewise, she was part of the executive team responsible for creating nearly 20,000 new Mississippi jobs and attracting nearly $3 billion in private sector investments from 2012 to 2015.
“This recognition 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.
Dorsey has provided leadership to the Mississippi Tourism Association as its president-elect and a three-year board member. During her second year on the executive board, she spearheaded a five-year strategic plan for the Mississippi Tourism Association. This plan was a collaboration of voices within the tourism industry, seeking to lead, advocate, educate and promote Mississippi tourism.
For more information on MTA or Mississippi tourism, visit mstourism.com or visitmississippi.org.