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Bed and breakfast owners join to have bigger tourism presence

By Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Members of the newly formed Natchez Bed and Breakfast Association include, front row from left, Jackie Wild of Magnolia Cottage Bed and Breakfast, Jeannette Feltus of Linden, Ron Fry and Eleanor Fry of Devereaux Shield House; back row from left, John Bergeron of Pleasant Hill Bed and Breakfast, Debbie Cosey representing Dunleith Historic Inn, Carol Jones representing Monmouth Historic Inn, Marcia McCullough of Marcia’s Cottages and Christine Tims of Bisland House Bed and Breakfast.

Being a bed and breakfast establishment means competing with larger hotels to fill rooms and turn a profit. In an area such as the Miss-Lou where there are a dozen hotels with hundreds of rooms available, a small bed and breakfast can get lost in the shuffle.

But that could all change, if Bisland House owner Christine Tims and other bed and breakfast owners get their way.

“It’s all about getting heads in our beds,” Tims said. “We want to compete with the larger hotels.”

Tims said bed and breakfast owners were looking to develop a voice with the tourism industry in Natchez and thus the Natchez Bed and Breakfast Association was born.

First organized by Bridget Green and Regina Charboneau in early January, the group didn’t get serious about its goals and bylaws until this summer. Tims was elected president of the organization in October.

Of the 40 to 50 bed and breakfast establishments, Tims said 20 are currently members of the new association.

“We want to have a voice in tourism,” Tims said. “By joining together, we can say we have X number of rooms available and participate in the community.”

Tims said the bed and breakfast establishments in Natchez represent 245 available rooms. Most individual B&Bs have 10 rooms or fewer.

“Hotels are great for some people,” Tims said. “But a bed and breakfast can offer a more personal experience.”

Tims said by joining the Bed and Breakfast Association, B&B owners would have more opportunities to promote their own unique niches to potential guests.

“By joining efforts, we can communicate more among other bed and breakfasts,” Tims said. “We want to have a type of networking system. A way to help each other out.”

Tims said one of the association’s projects was the continuing development of its website www.natchezmsbedandbreakfast.com.

“We eventually want to have one site with links to all of the bed and breakfasts,” Tims said. “This way, guests can go to one place to find all of the bed and breakfasts and see what each one has to offer.”

As an association, Tims said the goals were to provide marketing for the participating bed and breakfasts, serve as a liaison between members and local and state governments, to establish a relationship with other organizations in the area and to become a visual presence within the community.

“We are presently planning events and developing things to pull guests in during slow seasons,” Tims said.

Tims said many members were already participating in programs like B&B’s for Vets, recycling initiatives and Ronnie’s Box, which collects soaps and shampoos for the homeless.

Tims said the organization is in the process of adding new members and encouraged other bed and breakfasts to consider joining.

For information on joining, call Tims at 601-304-5806.