Don’t stop now on boosting tourism

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

After three years of tough times in the wake of Sept. 11 fears and a falling economy, Natchez Pilgrimage seems to be bouncing back.

At least that’s how it looks so far, about halfway into the annual event that showcases antebellum houses to tourists.

We don’t want to count chickens before they hatch, but things are looking good: group ticket sales up 15 percent, the Delta Queen steamboats back in town and some sell-out nights for the pageant.

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If anyone doubted the impact the tourism industry can have on Natchez’s economy, they need to walk around downtown and meet all of the tourists visiting our city in recent weeks.

But while we’re glad to see things looking up, we don’t have time for any sighs of relief or pats on the back.

Getting the industry back on its feet is one thing; pushing tourism beyond where we’ve been before is another.

We need to continue innovative marketing ideas, such as the regional advertising of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and the joint ad buys on which many tourism-related businesses have partnered.

Our city needs to continue its own marketing efforts, as well as work on cleanup efforts downtown and throughout the community, including the entrances &045; the first impression anyone gets of Natchez.

We need to continue looking for new events and programs to attract new visitors. The work being done at the William Johnson House and at the Forks of the Road slave market site, for example, will help Natchez tap into the heritage tourism market even more.

We’ve got a great start on boosting tourism &045; let’s not stop now.