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Jackson Wins Big at the 2019 MTA Governor’s Conference on Tourism

The Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA) recognized the impact and accomplishments of the state’s tourism industry at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism held in Columbus, MS on September 24, 2019 where Visit Jackson and other city entities earned six of the 15 statewide industry awards.

Taking a top honor, Rickey Thigpen, Executive Director/CEO of Visit Jackson, was awarded MTA Member of the Year.

"It is a humbling honor to be recognized by my peers that make up the Mississippi Tourism Association, the voice of Mississippi tourism," Thigpen said. "This accomplishment would not be possible if it were not for the collective ambition and support of the Hinds County legislative delegation, Mayor Lumumba and his administration, the Visit Jackson board of directors and passionate and committed staff. This award serves as a personal catalyst, fueling more dedication and hard work to enhance the quality-of-life for Jackson by enhancing its economy. It is a privilege to serve Jackson, Mississippi, MY CITY!"

A Jackson native, Thigpen has served Visit Jackson for over 31 years.

In his first year as Executive Director, Thigpen has initiated and/or implemented the Mayor’s Conference on Tourism, developed and implemented advisory boards to receive stakeholder input, and completed and revised strategic and marketing plans and sponsorship programs, among other accomplishments.

Thigpen has earned professional certifications from the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Tourism Association and Destination International. He has appeared in Black Meetings & Tourism magazine as one of the most influential African Americans in the tourism industry multiple times. Thigpen is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology; finalizing degree requirements in Psychology/Organizational Behavior & Leadership discipline.

He currently serves on five boards including the Mississippi Tourism Association Board of Directors & Chairman of the Tourism Mississippi PAC Board and Downtown Jackson Partners where he is focusing on a plan to eradicate homelessness in the city.

In other honors, the Tourism Investment Award was given to Ted Duckworth and Breck Hines for The District at Eastover.

The Travel Attraction of the Year Award was given for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Spirits of the Passage special exhibit which attracted more than 18,000 visitors.

Winner of the Large Festival/Event of the Year was the USA IBC Ballet Competition. The 11th USA IBC opened June 10, 2018, at Thalia Mara Hall and generated in-state spending of more than $9.3 million, a payroll impact of more than $4.5 million.

The award for Small Festival/Event of the Year was given to Cathead Jam. The fourth annual Cathead Jam brought in nearly 4,000 people of all ages from 21 U.S. states

Visit Jackson’s “Follow Me to Jackson” Influencer Campaign won the award for Social Media Campaign of the Year. The program, which tasked social media and online influencers with promoting the City of Jackson through a first-person narrative. The resulting experiences were published to the blog, discoverjxn.ms and boasts over 500,000 engagements since its beginning.

The annual MTA Governor’s Conference, an educational and professional development event, brought together more than 250 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 300(+-) member organization. Awards were presented in 15 categories, each focusing on a different aspect of the hospitality industry or individual achievement.

Pictured above: Thigpen; Visit Jackson VP of Marketing, Jonathan Pettus; Annette Rand, incoming MTA president; Visit Jackson Communication and Destination Development Manager, Kim Lewis; Visit Jackson Board Chairman, Robert Gibbs; and Visit MS Executive Director, Craig Ray 
Pictured top: Annette Rand, incoming MTA president; Thigpen; and Mississippi Development Authority Division Director, Craig Ray