Tourism can be fun for locals too

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2008

Saturday marks the beginning of National Tourism Week which will run through Saturday, May 18.

National Tourism Week takes place in May each year and has done so since 1983 when U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution designating the week to be celebrated during the month of May. President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation during a White House ceremony, urging U.S. citizens to observe the week with “the appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

As a result of the hard work of the tourism professionals who voluntarily managed the annual event early on, industry leaders formed a permanent full-time office at the Travel Industry Association to sponsor the event and expand tourism awareness into year-round programs.

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The TIA’s national theme for this year’s event is “Discover Great American Treasures,” so to model our local tourism week’s events around the national theme, we’re touting ours “Discovering Natchez Treasures.”

The events that will take place locally beginning Monday start at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, and participants will spend the next few days visiting Natchez sites, shops and restaurants and carrying a passport that could bear wonderful treasures for them by Thursday. Local residents are invited to participate, and all those who come in contact with our visitors in any way are encouraged to participate.

Over the course of the four days of “Discovering Natchez Treasures,” participants can travel back in time to places you’ve never been before. You’ll start your journey at the Visitors Center, where you’ll be treated to the 20-minute film “The Natchez Story,” and receive your Passport and Voyager Packet complete with treasure map. From there, the ship’s captain will escort you across Canal Street to the new Hampton Inn & Suites where you’ll indulge in a complimentary lunch served pirate style.

Once you re-board your vehicle at the Visitor Center, you’ll steam upstream on Canal to the Natchez Convention Center where you’ll be greeted by Captain Bluebeard Tipton and given a tour of the center and then the Country Inn & Suites Hotel.

At 3 p.m. you’ll take a stroll up Main Street to the office of the Natchez Chamber of Commerce to learn about chamber functions and meet the new director and her staff.

The restaurants that will be participating the evening of Monday’s voyage are Pearl St. Pasta, Cock-of-the-Walk and King’s Tavern; and the Peacock Lounge at the Natchez Eola Hotel will be offering two for one beverages from 5-7 p.m.

Each dining establishment that is participating throughout the week are offering discounts of various sorts and the 38 participating retail shops around town will have refreshments and light snacks each day.

Each day holds a different variety of activities and ports-of-call in which to visit or learn about. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will feature tours of St. Mary Basilica, Natchez in Historic Photographs and the First Presbyterian Church, The NAPAC Museum, The Temple B’Nai Israel, The George W. Armstrong Library, The Natchez Little Theater, Natchez City Cemetary, Historic Jefferson College, The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and the Forks of the Road site.

For a complete schedule and partipating restaurants, please stop by the Natchez Visitor Reception Center for a brochure. All tours are free to participants and there will be a grand prize drawing on Thursday when you turn in your stamped passport. You can participate on all four days if you wish or any of the four days you can make the time.

If you’ve ever been stumped by a question from a tourist about where something is, or what there is to see and to in Natchez, next week’s “Discover Natchez Treasures” is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your tourism ambassador skills. Bon voyage!

Sally Durkin works for the Natchez Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.