Natchez Pilgrimage Tours completes change of headquarters

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

After 20 years in the two-story corner office at the Canal Street Depot, Natchez Pilgrimage Tours has completed the move to new headquarters.

Furthermore, Mimi Houghton, the new sales and marketing director has come on board at the same time.

Staff members who meet and assist the public with information, tickets and bed-and-breakfast reservations now have a place at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

Email newsletter signup

The administrative arm of the tour company has settled into rooms on the second floor of a building on North Commerce Street owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club, said Dr. Jim Coy, manager of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

&8220;Mayor Phillip West and the aldermen were very supportive of the move to the visitors center,&8221; Coy said. The move provides Natchez visitors a place where tourism information and tickets are available under one roof, something many people have sought for a long time, he said.

In the administrative offices, &8220;we&8217;re thinking about how to make things happen in the most efficient way,&8221; Coy said. &8220;At the visitors center, they&8217;re tying to please the customers when they come through the door or call on the phone.&8221;

Houghton brings energy to the new arrangement and agrees with Coy&8217;s vision of challenges the tour company faces in the post-Katrina tourism year ahead, he said. &8220;She is attached to my feeling that it&8217;s a challenge,&8221; Coy said. &8220;Like so many other small businesses, we&8217;re hanging on, trying to make it.&8221;

Summer months were encouraging for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours, he said. The hurricanes Katrina and Rita led to cancellations of 80 percent of ticket sales for Fall Pilgrimage.

Thus the challenge ahead, Houghton said. &8220;Right now one of my duties is to get the word out that we&8217;re open,&8221; she said. &8220;We had a vision, but it&8217;s been clouded a bit. It&8217;s still there, though.&8221;

She will attend meetings to spread the word about Natchez among tour leaders and travel writers and will continue to work on the company&8217;s Web site and on advertisements.

Many people have made the transition for NPT go smoothly, Coy said, beginning with the owners of the Canal Street Depot, who allowed the company to begin moving a little ahead of schedule.

&8220;And John Saleeby, who came on board at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours in 2000 and gave NPT five very good years of service, graciously stayed with us until the move was completed,&8221; Coy said.

And &8220;all of those who sit behind the other counters at the visitors center have made our move go smoothly.&8221; That includes customer service representatives with the National Park Service, Mississippi Welcome Center and others. It also includes Connie Taunton with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Becky Johnson, manager of the center, Coy said.

&8220;There are so many people who have helped to make the move coordinated, and I want all of them to know that we&8217;re appreciative,&8221; he said.

Houghton said selling Natchez is a natural for her, and she thinks the future is bright for Natchez Pilgrimage Tours. &8220;This job is fun, and I&8217;m fortunate to love what I do,&8221; she said.

At the Commerce Street office, in addition to Coy and Houghton, are office manager Artie Catania and accountants Ginger Browder and Linda Watts. At the Visitor Reception Center are Sarah Jones and Ivering Henry in tickets, customer service and bed-and-breakfast reservations; and Beth Porter and Margaret Hall in group tours.