Tourism officials: Natchez open for business

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

NATCHEZ – Tourism workers are blitzing to put out the word: Natchez is undamaged by Hurricane Katrina and is a great place to visit.

“This city is a little paradise that is two hours away from the disaster,” said Philippe Dubos, general manager of the historic inn Monmouth.

Dozens attended the Thursday meeting – bed-and-breakfast owners, hoteliers, restaurateurs and historic site owners and managers, as well as Chamber of Commerce and city and state officials, among others.

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Rene Adams of Dunleith Plantation said long-term population changes have occurred in Baton Rouge, about 90 miles from Natchez, where many businesses and professional offices have relocated from New Orleans.

“Many of the people from New Orleans and Metairie are used to doing something special every weekend,” Adams said. “We have things to offer, and I believe they will drive up here. But many of them don’t know we’re here.”

Adams suggested billboard advertising in Baton Rouge. “We can say something like, ‘in 90 minutes, you’ll be in heaven,’ and ‘while the Big Easy is down, we’re keeping the spirit alive,'” she said. “With all of us in the hospitality industry working together, we can get some high profile billboards.”

Some bed-and-breakfast inns are getting cancellations for October and November, she said. “The national view is that all of Mississippi and Louisiana are torn up,” Adams said. “We have to get the word out that it isn’t true.”

State tourism officials are helping to coordinate a plan to curb those misconceptions, Adams said. Further, efforts to steer conventions planned for the Gulf Coast or New Orleans to Natchez also are under way.

The Mississippi Association of Realtors was to meet in Natchez in September but has canceled the conference, said Walter Tipton, Natchez’s director of tourism. Two more groups scheduled for the near future are undecided about whether to cancel because of a question of room availability.

“We’re going to get a lot of groups referred to us, and we need to be kept informed of the availability of rooms,” Tipton said.

Other suggestions for promoting visitation included inviting New Orleans chefs, artists and musicians to come to Natchez for special events or to relocate.