Tourism Director touts laundry list of upcoming Natchez conventions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

FERRIDAY &8212; In years past, it might not have been advisable for the Natchez tourism director to walk into the Ferriday Rotary Club meeting and brag about how well his city&8217;s spring convention season looked.

To show how the spirit of teamwork has spread, not only was Walter Tipton been invited to their Thursday meeting to do just that, he was applauded for it.

&8220;Walter, you deserve a raise,&8221; one Rotarian said after Tipton&8217;s talk.

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The reason for the positive reaction to Tipton&8217;s laundry list of big conferences coming to town &8212; 1,200 people for a ministry conference in April, 700 for a June youth conference and 1,500 bikers for a summer Harley-Davidson get-together &8212; was a recognition of the importance of tourism for the area as a whole.

&8220;There are 1,200 people coming for the Walderp Ministry conference,&8221; Tipton said. &8220;We have 1,200 hotel rooms. They&8217;re all booked.&8221;

That includes the Comfort Suites, he said. And the four-day conference has no meals planned, the impact of which was clear to the Rotarians.

&8220;You may want to bring a peanut butter sandwich to work that week,&8221; club President Cliff Merritt said. &8220;The restaurants on both sides of the river will be packed.&8221;

Tipton said tourism in Natchez had taken a hit from the bus trip cancellations and the end &8212; for now &8212; of the Delta Queen trips, but was working to take on conferences scheduled for the coast in search of a new venue.

He also said he welcomed the finishing of the Gateway Convention Center in Vidalia and was working with Mayor Hyram Copeland to help lure state-agency conferences to Vidalia.

&8220;We&8217;re going to promote the center throughout the state to conventions over 200 people,&8221; he said.

Tourists visit a state, Tipton told the group, they visit an area.

Merritt, who also is president of Delta Bank, said this attitude in the Miss-Lou&8217;s leaders could only help the whole area.

&8220;Good things that happen in Natchez will spill over into Concordia Parish,&8221; he said. &8220;And good things that happen in Concordia Parish will spill over to Natchez.&8221;