Changes should hinge on tourist convenience

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 23, 2002

The customer is always right is rarely more fitting than in a city steeped in history. Just ask one of the people at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. The private organization, which manages house ticket sales and tour reservations, recently announced changes to help make Pilgrimage more convenient for visitors.

And NPT officials know a thing or two about customer service. Combined, the group of house owners has decades of hospitality experience.

Service is second to none at NPT. No detail is too small to be overlooked. A bus tour passenger leaves his glasses at Longwood? No problem. They’ll ship them overnight.

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Convenience is the key to NPT’s long-standing reputation.

We applaud NPT on making the changes. Allowing Longwood &045;&045; among the most popular houses in Natchez &045;&045; to be open each day is an excellent change, as is introducing the three-house ticket, which should reduce hectic tour days. The focus on the customer is crucial to any tourism- or service-based industry. Pilgrimage is no exception.

To that end, we hope the City of Natchez and NPT can build a bridge so eventually Pilgrimage tour tickets can be sold at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center. The center was built as a central hub for all tourists. And largely, the building is a success. But the key ingredient still lacking is the addition of house tour tickets.

NPT chose to allow a contract with the city to lapse earlier this year. Under the contract, NPT paid 10 percent of its ticket sales to the city if the city agreed not to sell house tickets.

The city has no business selling house tickets. Government is rarely accused of having the excellent customer service and hospitality skills found at NPT.

Selling house tickets at the Visitor Reception Center &045;&045; where tourists are already routed from every conceivable direction &045;&045; just makes sense. It makes sense for the tourists and it makes sense for Natchez.

The city should consider working out an agreement with NPT. The goal should not be based on extortion-like stipulations as in the previous contract, but rather on something with which both sides can agree.

Would providing space at the center for a small fee &045;&045; or even free of charge &045;&045; be unthinkable?

Not if all parties remember that convenience is the magic word.