Count the positives in tourism land

Published 9:08 am Friday, May 25, 2007

Pilgrimage in Natchez ebbs and flows from year to year like Spanish moss in the wind.

National trends, the economy and terrorism play their part in determining just how many history hounds find their way to our town each spring and fall.

And the only way to analyze our town’s tourism success is year-to-year.

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The mid-1990s — specifically 1996 — were the Pilgrimage heyday. The stars aligned and the tourists flooded our gates. The national economy was great, the stock market was performing well and gas was, well, not what it is now.

Those factors all make a big difference, Pilgrimage Tours Manager Jim Coy said.

After 1996 numbers dropped slightly, but not much.

In 2000 the stock market crashed.

In 2001 terrorists bombed the World Trade Center.

Numbers dropped.

But in 2005, the national disaster was a regional one too. Hurricane Katrina stalled everything in New Orleans, and Natchez too.

The group tours common during Natchez Pilgrimage didn’t come up from the Big Easy. Group tours dropped 75 percent from what they’d been in 1996.

Individual tours were down 29 percent.

But, the flow is coming again.

This year, total ticket sales were up 18.7 percent from last year. Individual numbers were up 9.5 percent, group tours nearly 75 percent.

The numbers are still a far cry from 1996. But the measuring stick needs to be short. Natchez can’t go back in time, and it can’t change national events.

We can be proud of what we have, focus on the future and work to make those numbers increase year-by-year.