HATTIESBURG, MISS. (Oct. 26, 2021) – VisitHATTIESBURG was honored with three statewide awards at the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism last week, hosted by the Mississippi Tourism Association in Jackson. These awards include Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) of the Year for budgets $500,000 to $999,000, the Tourism Promotion of the Year Award and the newly established Tourism Resiliency Award.

“VisitHATTIESBURG continues to elevate our city’s quality of life through strategic planning, storytelling, and investments in the creative space,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “Their work has also set a new standard for destination marketing across Mississippi, and these awards are a testament to their willingness to go the extra mile.”

In 2019, the city hosted more than two million visitors who spent more than $300 million in Hattiesburg. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the travel and tourism industry was the hardest hit of all sectors.

“Our team is tremendously grateful to receive these statewide honors, and we want to thank the selection committee for recognizing Hattiesburg’s contributions to the tourism industry during one of the most difficult years we’ve ever faced. Over the last year, we’ve worked right alongside our hotels, restaurants, and many partners to find ways to actively market Hattiesburg as open for business, while ensuring we did it in safe, responsible ways,” said Marlo Dorsey, executive director of VisitHATTIESBURG. “A playbook didn’t exist to navigate through the challenges of COVID-19, but through perseverance and creativity, we found a solid recovery path forward together.”

VisitHBURG’s first honor was as Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) of the Year for budgets $500,000 to $999,000. Winners of this award are recognized for outstanding efforts in promoting tourism in their area through events and activities that generate visitors, while noting their work with local and regional tourism partners. VisitHBURG was selected to receive this top award for its seamless transition during the pandemic and beyond, including hosting its third annual Hattiesburg Restaurant Week, launching the new Hatties[BURGER] culinary trail, and creating the HBURG Public Art Trail. Additionally, throughout the pandemic, VisitHBURG served as a vital partner to the Downtown Hattiesburg Association and Midtown Merchants Association, offering marketing guidance and leadership support.

The organization also received the Tourism Promotion of the Year Award, which is given to the state’s top promotional campaign that attracts visitors to an area or event in an innovative way. In 2020, VisitHBURG joined its umbrella organization Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art (HAPA) to quickly bolster support for local artists, while providing a safe, creative outlet for residents and visitors to explore. Nine murals and a permanent sculpture were added to Hattiesburg’s public art footprint in 2020, the largest single-year growth in the organization’s history. Additionally, the HBURG Public Art Trail was developed as a drivable public art tour throughout the city, currently highlighting more than 40 public art stops. By activating both public and green spaces with murals and sculptures in the city, VisitHBURG enjoyed tremendous participation and grew its social media reach with residents and visitors.

Lastly, VisitHBURG was awarded the inaugural Tourism Resiliency Award, which was given to an organization that went above and beyond during the pandemic, overcoming adversity and exhibiting outstanding leadership for the industry. As the global COVID-19 pandemic swept the state, VisitHBURG’s Dorsey joined destination leaders across the state to advocate for recovery assistance, which resulted in the creation of the Mississippi Tourism Recovery Fund through the CARES Act. In Fall 2020, VisitHBURG launched its “Safely Open for You” campaign, focusing on safe, responsible travel. Marketing research and data illustrated a substantial increase in tourism engagement and visitation to Hattiesburg with the campaign delivering more than two billion impressions to potential visitors in top target markets in several states.

The Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism is an annual educational and professional development event that brings together about 200 industry professionals and recognizes the impact and accomplishments of the state’s tourism industry. 

“It is truly an honor to celebrate these members who work tirelessly for their communities. The competition was strong and that is a testament to the caliber of work being produced by our industry partners and the strength and competitiveness of Mississippi tourism,” said MTA Executive Director Danielle Morgan. 

The awards program gives MTA the opportunity to recognize members who excel in various sectors of the industry. Awards were presented in 19 categories, each focusing on a different aspect of the hospitality industry or individual achievement. Tourism professionals from other states serve as judges each year for the awards.


VisitHattiesburg Team_Gov. Conference Awards 2021: VisitHATTIESBURG received the DMO of the Year in the $500,000 - $999,999 category award, the Tourism Promotion of the Year award, and the newly established Tourism Resiliency award at the 2021 Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Jackson. Tourism professionals from other states serve as judges each year for the awards.
(Pictured L – R) VisitHATTIESBURG’s Kristen Brock, Director of Programs and Promotions; Marlo Dorsey, Executive Director; Paige Robertson, Director of Communications and Digital Strategies. Dorsey is also serving as President of the Mississippi Tourism Association for 2021-22. 


VisitHBURG – Governors Conference Awards: VisitHATTIESBURG was recognized at the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism, earning three statewide tourism awards. (Pictured L – R) Craig Ray, Director of Tourism, Visit Mississippi; Jane Granberry, Mississippi Miss Hospitality 2021; Kristen Brock, Paige Robertson, and Marlo Dorsey, VisitHATTIESBURG; Laura Hipp, Interim Executive Director, Mississippi Development Authority; Danielle Morgan, Executive Director, Mississippi Tourism Association.



As the voice of Mississippi tourism, the Mississippi Tourism Association is a membership organization whose mission is to unite all sectors of the tourism industry through advocacy, promotion and education. MTAs vision is to transform Mississippis economy through increased visitor spending and overall travel industry growth. For more than 30 years, MTA has led Mississippis tourism education and advocacy efforts. Membership and organization details can be found at