Director reports convention center is busy

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 24, 2009

NATCHEZ — After a March meeting of the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission, Walter Tipton felt the need to explain a few things at the group’s April meeting on Wednesday.

At the earlier meeting, Warren Reuther, president of New Orleans Hotel Consultants, which has the management contract for the Natchez Convention Center, presented a list of conventions and meetings that had been booked for the center. That list didn’t sit well with other tourism officials who said the convention center staff wasn’t entirely responsible for booking all the events listing.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Tipton, director of the Natchez Convention Center, said the list wasn’t compiled to take any undue credit, but rather to show that the center was staying busy.

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“All those events don’t come from us,” Tipton said. “Our business comes from the full spectrum of the community.”

Tipton said that since the money generated by conventions visiting Natchez helps everyone in the town, it was only natural to include a full listing of events in the March presentation.

“We are trying to be inclusive and communicate everything that is going on,” he said. “The convention center belongs to the city of Natchez.”

Tipton said because of leads generated by multiple community sources, the convention center is booked each day for the remainder of April and already has several large bookings for May.

“We are not operating every other weekend,” Tipton said. “We are busy each day.”

In other business:

4 Debbie Hudson, president of the Natchez Chamber of Commerce, requested funding from the commission to aid in the marketing of “Natchez: City of Lights,” an effort to bring tourists to town during the Christmas season.

Hudson’s proposal requested money to help the chamber’s tourism council publish brochures, create a Web site and publicize the holiday events.

“I really see this as an economic tool to bring people here during two months that aren’t busy,” Hudson said.

No vote was taken, but Connie Taunton, tourism director, pledged her support of the project.

“We’ll make it happen,” she said.

Taunton said she would like to see the bids received for printing the brochures to see if money can be saved on that end.

4 Taunton reported that the 3 percent room tax collections were up for February 2009 when compared to February 2008 — $14,364 was collected for the month.

Taunton said that year-to-date collections of the $2 room fee are $144,070. Combined with the start up money loaned to the fund by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the fund has collected $169,620. Of that, $166,213.11 has been spent.

4 Taunton reported that the CVB owes $300 on its line of credit. That is down from the $70,000 to $80,000 owed before she was named director.

She also said the marketing fund has seen a $40,000 increase in funding in that same time.

4 The CVB has received 1,144 inquiries from brides interested in Natchez as a destination wedding location. The inquiries came from the CVB’s online bridal guide.