Heritage tourism is key

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 21, 2009

NATCHEZ — Change has become reality — that was Vern Smith’s message in his address to the Natchez Business and Civil League.

Smith, a freelance journalist and Natchez native, was the NBCL’s keynote speaker at the group’s awards banquet Friday night.

While Smith spoke on the historical significance of the election that put President Obama in office, he also spoke on the need for an increased focus on heritage tourism in Natchez.

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Smith said he first began considering the concept of heritage tourism several years ago while working on an article for Newsweek.

He immediately thought of Natchez.

“(Natchez) is as compelling as anything across the region,” he said. “And it isn’t for African Americans only.”

Heritage tourism has a focus on historically significant places or events as they pertain to specific cultures.

And Natchez’s rich history in relation to slavery makes it an ideal destination for heritage tourism, Smith said.

A concentration on that tourism could bring big bucks into the area, he said.

NBCL President Mary Toles said she believes the area would greatly benefit from an increased focus on heritage tourism.

“We need to look to the future,” she said. “This is an extremely valuable resource.”

In other news, Aaron Patten was named the NBCL Man of the Year and Christina Logan was named Woman of the Year.