Rebates may help Natchez tourism

Published 1:25 am Monday, April 28, 2008

NATCHEZ — Taxpayers will begin seeing their wallets a little fatter starting today, and Natchez may benefit economically as well.

The economic stimulus rebates, for those who chose the direct deposit route, will be issued today.

Paper checks will start being mailed May 9.

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Up to $600 can come to individuals and $1,200 for those who filed jointly.

Director of Tourism Connie Taunton said those who get the extra cash might be inspired to travel.

“That’s what the Travel Industry Association is saying, that some of the people will use that little extra money to take that trip that maybe they’ve been putting off,” Taunton said.

Taunton said she hopes Natchez will see some of those people.

“We’re hoping that it will encourage some travel later on this spring or early summer,” she said.

Jonathan Wood, owner of Old South Trading Post, said the majority of people who will be taking trips spurred on by the rebate check, will mostly be looking to take short trips.

That’s why Taunton said a 250-mile radius around Natchez is being targeted.

“We focused on those areas of our advertising that’s going out right now,” Taunton said.

Shorter trips are more likely because of higher gas prices said Walter Tipton, director of the Natchez Convention Center, said.

“It’s sort of a Band-Aid, because it’s a one time thing and one of the main things that’s impacting people right now is the high price of gasoline,” he said.

Wood is positive that the check will bring people in to Natchez.

“This check helps take the major expense away and gives them the opportunity to come and not only spend nights in our new hotels and regular hotels and regular bed and breakfasts and eat out and have an enjoyable experience,” Wood said.

He said another draw that Natchez has right now that could help bring in those rebate tourists is the high river — disaster tourism, almost.

“In the last week and a half there has been a significant upturn from visitors from 120 miles around us to come see the river,” Wood said.

Taunton said she expects an 8 to 10 percent influx of tourists due to the extra money coming in.

She said this could fill in the gap the since Pilgrimage was down 5 percent this spring.

As far as locals spending money locally, Wood said he expects some of that too.

“A lot of people will be using that to buy gifts for birthdays, and believe it or not, Christmas,” he said.

Tipton said local restaurants will see a bit of a boost.

“I do believe this will help the restaurants because it’ll provide for some discretionary funds,” Tipton said.