Tourism Week offers journey to free local attractions

Published 1:17 am Sunday, May 11, 2008

In order to better promote tourism in Natchez, tourism leaders are banding together to educate the public about the “treasures” of Natchez.

Monday kicks off National Tourism Week and the city has lined up a full week of activities for citizens to enjoy.

The theme for National Tourism Week this year is “Discover great American traditions,” so Janelle Williams, general manager at the Hampton Inn and one of the driving forces behind the event, gave it a twist.

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“Discovering Natchez treasures,” is the theme and each day will be an educational journey to reveal the bounty of Natchez.

Williams said sometimes, after living in a place for such a long time, a citizen can be afflicted with tunnel vision.

“I think there are a lot of things in the City of Natchez that people may have forgotten,” she said.

The event began with a brainstorming session of the Natchez Adams Chamber of Commerce tourism committee.

Williams said Director of Tourism Connie Taunton informed the committee that National Tourism Week was coming around the bend.

“I’m one of those ‘let’s not do it little, let’s do it big,’ people,” Williams said.

So she jumped headfirst into planning the four-day event.

Each day there will be a tour of the city with several ports of call, keeping in line with the pirate-esque theme.

For example, on Monday the tour will be begin at the visitors center where participants will watch “The Natchez Story” — a short movie.

The next stop is the Hampton Inn which will feature a pirate-style lunch. Then participants will move on to a tour of the Natchez Convention Center and Country Inn and Suites, then a meet and greet with the chamber staff and finally will end at the Eola Hotel.

Each evening, local restaurants will be open to the guests and offer visitors discounts, free appetizers with a meal purchased or a similar perk.

On Monday, Juleps Lounge at the Eola will have a happy hour, while Kings Tavern, The Castle Restaurant and Pub, Pearl Street Pasta and Cock of the Walk will be doing something special for the occasion.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will all follow this format, with tours in the morning and early afternoon, followed by featured restaurants in the evenings.

The brochure for the entire week can be picked up at the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Williams said it’s important for citizens to understand what Natchez has to offer.

Debbie Hudson, director of the chamber of commerce, dittoed this sentiment.

“The people here are our best ambassadors,” Hudson said.

Sally Durkin, media liaison for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, said anyone who comes in contact with tourists needs to be able to sell the city.

“It’s catering to anyone who comes in contact with tourists,” Durkin said of the event.

Durkin constructed a hypothetical situation where a tourist pulls into a convenience store and asks someone working there how to get tourist information.

She said it’s important for everyone to be able to give proper and concise information.

“It makes me cringe when they say, ‘I don’t know,’” she said.

Rene Adams, chair of the committee, said overall this will benefit the city.

“Tourism is a great way to lure people to our city,” she said.

Whether they come for a couple of days, or fall in love and relocate themselves or their business to Natchez, the city wins.

“Educating our Natchez citizens about tourism is so vital to the overall growth of an economic arm in this community,” Adams said.

Hudson said she thinks if this week is successful, each year will be just as big.

The Chamber of Commerce will have a Business After Hours event from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday and will be giving out tourism awards.

The categories are Tourism Superstar, Property of the Year, Attraction of the Year, Gone But Not Forgotten and the Mint Julep Award, which will go to someone who has retired in the past year from the tourism industry.