Revenues from antebellum house tour tickets down almost 5 percent, Saleeby says

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Revenues from antebellum house tour tickets were down almost 5 percent during Spring Pilgrimage compared to the same time last year, according to Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Marketing Director John Saleeby.

Group tour ticket revenues, which make up one-third of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours’ revenues during Spring Pilgrimage, were up more than 15 percent.

&uot;The group tour business is starting to recover nationally&uot; as travelers get further away from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Saleeby said. &uot;People didn’t want to spread out more than 150 or 200 miles, Š but their comfort zone is starting to spread out again.&uot;

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Individual tour revenues were down almost 10 percent &045; even taking into account the an increase in the price of four-house tour tickets and the opening of the antebellum house Longwood for Pilgrimage. The actual number of tickets sold was not available as of press time.

Saleeby said he believes the war in Iraq &045; and high gas prices &045; coinciding with the start of Pilgrimage had much to do with the decline in individual tour revenues this year. But other economic factors also played a part. &uot;The economy and the stock market haven’t recovered, and interest rates are low,&uot; he said. &uot;And the older age group, which forms the core of our business, depends on interest income Š as a vital part of their budget.&uot;

And consumers are facing tough economic realities, the first luxuries they cut out are vacations, Saleeby pointed out.

To help combat the slowdown in revenues, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours is stepping up its marketing in the travel &uot;comfort zone&uot; that extends from eastern Alabama to eastern Texas and up to Arkansas and Tennessee.

&uot;We’re sending out our news releases to every daily, weekly and monthly (publication) in that area,&uot; Saleeby said.