Good things come in tourism packages

Published 12:41 am Monday, July 26, 2010

Natchez in a box is what tourists are looking for.

Jill Kidder, co-director of Louisiana Travel Promotion Association, told members of the hospitality industry in Natchez they need to jump on the packaging boat to nab the largest number of tourists possible during a work session sponsored by the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Packaging means attractions, tours, restaurants and hotel and bed and breakfast operators working together to create deals for visitors, Kidder said.

“Its about ease of travel for tourists,” Kidder said. “They want something unique, immersive and personal.”

That means, Kidder said, that tourist wants and expects to be hands-on when touring and learning about the history of a place.

For instance, in culinary tourism, where a region tauts its cuisine, Kidder said tourists want to not only hear about the food but also taste it and be a part of the preperation.

“We have to give tourists what they want,and what they want now is to have an experience while on vacation,” Kidder said. “They want to feel like everything was catered to them. When they have that kind of experience they are going to come back and tell their friends about it.”

One area that Natchez should utilize packaging is in promoting the area’s heritage tourism.

Royal Hill, commissioner with the Natchez CVB, said the area needs to work together to create something that fills the heritage tourism niche that visitors to the Miss-Lou want.

“We could fairly easily organize a two-hour bus tour that makes a loop around the city to highlight the African-American history that we have here,” Hill said.

The tour, Hill said, could start at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center and include stops at Natchez Under-the-Hill, the William Johnson House, Melrose or other homes with good insight on the work of slaves in Natchez, Forks of the Road and the Rhythm Night Club site and memorial sites.

“This is not something that we are currently offering, but I think with a little work and cooperation it is something that could be very popular and give a look at a side of the history of our city that isn’t highlighted as well.”

Other ideas for creating packaging incldued outdoors packages including things such as horseback riding, kayaking, fishing or hunting, tourist scavenger hunts that would have tourists visiting several attractions and collecting stamps at all the different spots and highlighting the music and culinary heritage of the area.

Kidder said thinking outside the box is the way to go. She said by being creative, Natchez tourism can appeal to all groups. For example, on Valentine’s Day instead of marketing just to couples on romantic getaways, offering a package for the single or recently broken-hearted could attract a whole new type of tourist.

The package, which is being offered by a New Orleans’ bed and breakfast, could include ice cream, massages, dinners or even a Voo Doo doll with pins and markers to put a make believe hex on the ex.

Kidder said packages had to satisfy several criteria to be considered quality packages by tourist. Packages must, Kidder said, be a unique experience, feature cost savings, give tourist the ability to plan in advancee, offer ease of purchase and be convenient and time-saving for tourists.

Connie Taunton, tourism director for the Natchez CVB said the packaging is even more important in a time where tourists aren’t spending as much time on vacations as they once were.

“People aren’t taking the week long vacations that they once were,” she said. “People still are traveling, but they are looking for more bang for their buck when they travel. If they can get two, three or four things at one time then they are more likely to come.”

Kidder said attraction managers need to work together to create unique packages and then utilize the CVB’s marketing expertise to advertise the packages to potential tourists.

Once packages are created, Sally Dukin, media liasion for the CVB said operators need to work together to cross-market them.

“If the Eola sends one or two guests, and then Monmouth or Dunleith send a few of their guests and the other hotels and bed and breakfasts send their guests, then all of a sudden we have 15 people going on a tour,” Durkin said. “Its going to take cooperation from everyone involved, but if we work together then we can really sell Natchez.”