New council succeeds in uniting marketing forces

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; An effort to join tourism forces in promoting Natchez is paying off, members of a year-old coalition say.

Organized through the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber Tourism Council is open to anyone whose business or work is a part of the tourism industry, said Rene’ Adams, council chairman.

Notable among the recent successes of the group is a two-page spread in &uot;Mississippi: The Official Tour Guide 2003,&uot; a slick full-color magazine published by the Mississippi Tourism Association.

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&uot;Look at this,&uot; Adams said, showing off the advertisement and ticking off the places included in the ad. &uot;This is such a positive thing for Natchez that all these places are united in such a wonderful presence in this magazine.&uot;

With 400,000 copies going into distribution, Adams and others are confident the Natchez pages will have an impact.

Eighteen different tourism sites, hotels, restaurants and shopping areas are represented in the ad. &uot;Cooperative advertising is the key to our future. We get so much more for the money,&uot; Adams said. &uot;A small property may not be able to go big, but when Natchez is put out there for all to see, everyone benefits.&uot;

Adams thumbed to the back of the magazine to show the state map that unfolds and may be removed or refolded into the magazine.

Chamber CEO Laura Godfrey said the monthly meetings of the council have paid off in other ways, as members continue to monitor marketing efforts and to work with the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau to enhance what that official tourism agency does.

&uot;We want to serve as a kind of tourism watchdog and be sure

things we think need to be done are being done,&uot; Godfrey said. &uot;We have to come up with new energy, new ideas to keep our share of the tourism market.&uot;

Darienne Wilson, director of the tourism division at the Mississippi Development Authority, said state figures show 18 percent of employment in Natchez is tourism related.

&uot;We show 2,532 jobs in tourism in fiscal year 2002,&uot; she said. &uot;And we show total tourism revenues for Natchez in 2002 at $120 million.&uot;

Overall, statewide tourism employment in Mississippi is 92,000, with tourism revenues putting $6.4 billion into the state.

State research shows that advertising pays off. For every dollar the department spends on consumer marketing, the state general fund receives back $15 in visitor spending, studies show.

Wilson said partnerships among local tourism-related businesses is crucial to success. &uot;You can’t say enough about the need for those partnerships,&uot; she said. &uot;It is encouraging that everybody seems more willing today to put down the individual hat and instead wear a Natchez hat. Everyone benefits from that.&uot;

The coalition will provide input for Walter Tipton, executive director of the CVB, Wilson said. &uot;It will let him know what those in the tourism industry want and will be a big support for the CVB.&uot;

Tipton was out of town and not available for comment on the advertising or the council. However, one of the squares in the two-page ad features the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, home to the CVB.

&uot;I applaud the private sector for working together to promote tourism,&uot; Wilson said. &uot;And I don’t mind saying, as I’ve said before, that Natchez has more potential for tourism than any other place in the state.&uot;