Tourism officials should go to the source

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 21, 2010

If Natchez, and the rest of the Miss-Lou, hopes to continue honing and improving its tourism effort, we must go to the source.

Getting the message straight from the horse’s mouth — tourists who are here — is the best way to get raw, unvarnished truths regarding the product we provide to the world.

While it may seem strange to ask these “amateurs” what we need to improve, who best to recognize the needs if not people who arrive with a completely blank slate of what to expect?

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Further, it may seem odd to refer to our tourism industry as a “product,” but that’s what it is. It’s a complicated, complex fabric of a product that starts with the marketing messages we send out and ends with how often we smile when we’re serving the tourists who come.

In between are such simple things as constantly saying “thank you” and staying one step ahead of tourist needs and also such complicated goals as preserving the charm of our current tourism offerings while adding new items to attract a more diverse tourism base.

The recent Southern Hospitality Academy, which aimed at improving our area’s customer service focus, is a great start toward this goal.

Just because Natchez’s tourism base is mature and rooted in history does not mean it cannot continue to evolve and learn.

Think about it.

The most energizing people — those 90 year olds with an almost insatiable passion for life — are the ones who simply live each day as an opportunity to learn something new.

Our community should be no different. We should take customer criticism constructively and not with an immediate knee-jerk rejection of what the customer has told us.