Tourism officials hope to get engine moving

Published 12:03 am Sunday, August 5, 2012

NATCHEZ — The Miss-Lou Regional Tourism Summit organizers are hoping to inspire area tourism professionals with a classic children’s story.

The theme for this year’s summit is “I think I can…I think I can…I know I can,” which Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association member Sally Durkin said is inspired by “The Little Engine That Could.”

“A lot of these rural communities simply don’t have the revenue with which to market themselves,” Durkin said. “The whole premise of this is geared toward helping (communities) find ways to market themselves with little or no resources, with social media and other things, so this year is based on ‘The Little Engine That Could’ because it never gave up.”

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Melissa Hall from the Southern Foodways Alliance will facilitate the session on making culinary tourism work.

Rachael Carter, project manager for community and economic development for Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development, said the local food movement has created an opportunity for culinary tourism for Mississippi communities.

“Local food is really catching on,” Carter said. “It’s something we can really can take advantage of here in Mississippi.”

Carter said MSU works with the Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association, along with other board advisors, to develop relevant educational programming for the summit.

The summit, Carter said, will open Tuesday with a legislative policy update for the tourism industry about new policies and changes and their impact on both Mississippi and Louisiana. Mississippi Senator Lydia Chassaniol and Louisiana Rep. Andy Anders will join Dr. Martin Wiseman of the Stennis Institute for the opening session.

Durkin said Paige Hunt with the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau will be at the summit to talk about rural communities working with the film industry and how Greenwood capitalized on the filming of “The Help.”

Natchez native and Emmy Award-winning producer Jennifer Ogden Combs will also talk about working with production companies.

Durkin said other sessions will provide tips for mastering public relations and using the press as a means to “get yourself put on the map.” Registration for the summit, which starts Tuesday and ends midday Thursday, is $125 for all three days, or $75 for one day. Anyone wishing to attend the summit can register online at under the “Training” tab.