Natchez needs increased tourism tax

Published 12:08 am Friday, February 22, 2008

Natchez is one of the South’s greatest treasures — rich in history, hospitality and charm.

We believe so much in her future that my business partner, Tom Bauer, and a few others have invested $14 million in the city.

Problem is, not enough people know what a great place Natchez is to visit. Leisure travel was down 36 percent last year compared to 2000, with overall leisure/convention travel down 6 percent. The city lacks the staffing and funding necessary to increase visitation, which is why we need the $2 per night hotel occupancy fee.

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The visitor-based, hotel fee will increase job opportunities and benefit all residents by generating additional money to help pay for city services (like police protection and street repairs) and promote and support events at three of the city’s greatest assets: the civic center, auditorium and convention center.

What will we do with more marketing dollars? For starters, we’ll buy more national advertising. We’ll host more meeting planners, tour operators and media for familiarization trips to spark visitation and editorial coverage. Also key is diversifying Natchez’s visitor base by conducting monthly sales missions to Jackson, Baton Rouge and corporate businesses within a 300-mile radius. The city currently does not advertise to this market.

Natchez is the nation’s best kept secret. The hotel occupancy fee can help change that. We encourage everyone to ask their alderman to vote “yes” so our industry can pass a hotel fee that won’t impact locals, yet will benefit all.

Warren L. Reuther Jr.

manager, Natchez Convention Center