Hotel tax proposition passes

Published 7:52 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NATCHEZ — With an overwhelming 2,151 votes, the $2 hotel tax passed Tuesday night.

Gaining 71.04 percent of the vote, the tax only needed 60 percent to pass.

The $2 per occupied room tax will increase the city’s marketing budget from approximately $120,000 a year to $600,000.

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Sally Durkin, media liaison for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she is relieved it passed.

“I’m just really happy for the city,” she said. “Everybody will benefit from this in the long run in some way, shape or form.”

She said she felt confident before the election that the tax would pass.

“I feel enough people know what it takes to market any kind of product,” she said. “There are a lot of business people in Natchez and a lot of intelligent people in Natchez, and they understand the need.”

Walter Tipton, former tourism director and current director of the convention center, said he is very pleased the tax passed.

“I’m glad the public supports marketing Natchez,” he said. “I’m reassured that people took the time to educate themselves on the issue.”

He said the increase in the budget will be very beneficial and it comes at the right time.

Just recently, the Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division notified the city that they will no longer be offering a matching grants program that has funded the tourism budget in the past.

This would hit the already slim budget fairly hard, officials have said.

“It almost got to a point where it’s critical for us to get this,” Tipton said. “It was the right thing to do at the right time for Natchez.”

Next, a tourism marketing advisory committee will be formed.

This committee will form the budget each year, which will be presented to the visitors bureau.

The final stamp of approval will come from the mayor and board or aldermen.

The 12-member committee will be comprised of members from different tourism entities — from heritage tourism, to Natchez Pilgrimage Tours and restaurants and hotels.

“One thing is for sure, we want marketing savvy people to be at the helm of this thing,” Durkin said.