- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - Jackson County voters have passed a 2 percent hotel/motel tax that will fund the county’s participation in a coast-wide tourism program.

According to multiple news outlets, complete but unofficial results from Tuesday show the tourism tax got about 71 percent approval of those voting. It required at least 60 percent approval to pass.

“Elections are always a little difficult, but we always felt that this is what Jackson County wanted,” said Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Renee Areng.

The new tax is expected to generate up to $700,000 a year. The money will go to the Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for promoting and marketing South Mississippi as a fun destination spot.

The tri-county tourism group was set up two years ago and the three coastal counties were each given two years of membership at no charge. Hancock County and Harrison County are already contributing room tax revenues to the organization.

Three of Jackson County’s four municipalities already impose hotel/motel taxes, which would increase with passage of the new tourism tax.. Pascagoula and Moss Point each charge a 5 percent tax, while Ocean Springs has a 2 percent tax. Gautier has no such tax and hotels/motels in the unincorporated areas of the county also have no room tax.

Areng said Jackson County jumping on the tourism bandwagon is a move in the right direction.

“The traveler does not see boundaries, they want the experiences. Jackson County has probably the most personal experience it can offer for a traveler to come to the coast and we want to be able to share that,” said Areng.

Areng said tourism officials hope to have the tourism tax to be collected starting Oct. 1.

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