Local shops report success from American Queen
Steamboat passengers are a good fit in Natchez, Smith said, since the same things that attracted them to a steamboat cruise attract them to a city like Natchez.
“A lot of people that come down for balloon race or pilgrimage are not here to buy,” he said. “But on this type of cruise they are interested in antiques.”
Smith said he noticed that many of his customers from the American Queen have been tourists from California, and he has had to ship a lot of items to their homes.
Since Smith knows he has what the passengers want, he’s focusing his attention now on how to market his business to the boat’s tourists.
“I don’t know how to let them know we’re here, unless on days it’s going to come in we put a sign somewhere Under-the-Hill that says, ‘Franklin Street antiques are open,’” he said.
For now, Smith said he hopes that the guests will see the shops and tell the tour-bus drivers to stop at the antique shops.
Wood agreed that the city needs a good marketing plan aimed at the passengers.
“The boats are one of the most positive economic forms of tourism development Natchez has,” Wood said.
Wood said knowing that the boat brings short-term visitors means he has to provide a good experience and also provide an opportunity to reach those guests even after they leave.
Meals are available to the passengers on the boat, but restaurant managers at Cotton Alley and Natchez Landing report that some passengers opted for a change of pace.
Business was certainly up at Natchez Landing due to the boat’s presence, but it wasn’t the passengers who made the biggest impact, manager Melvin Demby said.
“We get people that work on the boat and local people that come to look at the boats more than (guests),” Demby said.
The biggest wave of traffic during the boat’s April stops was at the end of the day when locals went Under-the-Hill to bid the boat farewell.
Sarah Jones, of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours at the Natchez Visitor’s Center, said the Natchez Visitor Reception Center also saw an increase in traffic on April 16.
“They were looking for homes within walking distance, information overall about the town and where the shops are,” Jones said.
The American Queen will return to town on May 18, 25, June 1, 7, 12, 24 and again in the fall.