Natchez tourism leaders stress working together

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NATCHEZ — The next three months in tourism are going to be bare bones, tourism officials said.

But they aren’t just going to lie down and take it.

The tourism marketing advisory committee met Tuesday to discuss how to combat declining tourism due to the economy.

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The committee has been charged with the task of using revenue accrued through the $2 hotel tax to market the city of Natchez.

However, the way the money has been divided seems no longer applicable.

“The economy was completely different when we did this,” said Tony Scudiero, vice president and general manager of the Isle of Capri.

The group wants to focus on marketing regionally.

Monmouth Executive Director René Adams said the Natchez tourism industry is currently in crisis.

“There are no rooms being rented right now,” she said.

She agreed that tourism officials need to up the ante on regional advertising to put heads on beds — and they need to do it now.

With occupancy rates already falling, it’s only going to get worse in the slow months of January and February, she said.

“It’s to the point where we have to do something, and we want to do it,” Adams said. “We can avoid a shortfall by going out there collectively and working together.

“Let’s start planning now so in April, we’re not shutting the doors.”

The tourism council of the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce could work to create hotel packages, get downtown shops to stay open longer and bring in entertainment, she said.

But it’s the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission that needs handle the advertising, Adams said.

“We need to work together as much as possible,” Natchez Pilgrimage Tours Director Marsha Colson said.

The group decided to strategically place billboards within a 250-mile radius.

Hot spots would include Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the committee decided.

The committee agreed to place five billboards regionally at $7,500 a month for three months — January, February and March.

The money was pulled from leftover money not spent on the visitors Web site that is being created by the CVB.

Tourism Director Connie Taunton said the CVB will work on a plan to get the billboards placed and designed for the beginning of January.