City tourism to spend $50K grant on new website

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 2010

NATCHEZ — Even in a town famous for its antebellum charm, a new grant to help better establish Natchez’s technological presence should help attract visitors, tourism experts say.

Tourism Director Connie Taunton said the tourism department was recently awarded a $50,000 grant to revamp its website.

The new site, which should be up in May, will give Natchez a more “dynamic” presence on the web, Taunton said.

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With the new site, local people and businesses can submit event information using the site, and the tourism staff will review it and post the information on the main calendar of events.

“Any event going on, we’ll be able to put it on the website,” Taunton said.

“It will be like a clearing house,” Taunton said of the catchall capabilities of the site.

The site will also team up with an online booking agency to allow out-of-towners to book lodging reservations directly from the site.

Allowing visitors to enter their information and book rooms on the site will also provide useful demographic information to the tourism department. Information about what kinds of people visit Natchez will help direct campaigns to the correct crowds, Taunton said.

The site will also send leads about conventions and other functions that have not yet been booked to local venues, which will allow the venues to promote themselves as a host.

The Mississippi Heritage, History and Culture Tourism Fund sponsored the grant to Natchez through the tourism division of the Mississippi Development Authority.

Taunton said Simple View is a well-recommended company that will build the Natchez tourism site. The company specifically deals with creating websites for “destination management organization,” Taunton said.

Taunton said she also recently found out the tourism department has access to two more grants.

The grant funds of $50,000 for both the Natchez Trace Parkway and Mississippi River Road were awarded to Natchez to share with other surrounding communities. Both grants will aim at marketing Natchez in connection with the communities along those routes.

Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program awarded the grant to the Natchez Trace Compact, of which Taunton is the president. The compact includes communities along the parkway from Natchez to Nashville, Taunton said.

The $50,000 for marketing will also be matched by contributions by each community, making the total grant funds worth $100,000.

Taunton said the Trace’s website,, will also be spruced using some of the grant funds.

An advertising agency out of Tunica operates the campaign, and Taunton said the agency will use some of the funds to target niche publications, such as motorcycle or RV magazines.

The Natchez Trace Compact, which was established eight years ago, has been receiving an average of $250,000 annually, Taunton said. Taunton said working with other communities gives the compact a lot of pull when applying for grants.

“We will be marketing them together,” Taunton said.

The final grant Taunton recently learned the tourism department was awarded is another $50,000 grant for the Mississippi River Road.

The funds will be used to market the communities on the route from Natchez to Tunica on U.S. 61. The Mississippi Heritage History and Culture Tourism Fund also awarded the river road grant, and the federal byways fund might also contribute to a match for the grant.

Vicksburg, Greenville and Rolling Fork, for instance, are other communities that will also be included in the campaign.

Taunton said promoting small communities nearby Natchez benefits Natchez.

“This will help smaller communities, but it will also hopefully increase overnight stays in Natchez,” Taunton said, especially since the smaller communities have less lodging available.

“In all reality, we received about 150,000 grant funds to help market Natchez,” Taunton said.

She said the addition of the federal byways match funds also bumps up the total.