Tourism expert says CVB director position best for ‘objective outsider’

Published 12:12 am Thursday, April 17, 2014

NATCHEZ — One tourism expert says Natchez needs an objective outsider to take the reins at the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The City of Natchez is searching for a CVB director in light of Connie Taunton’s retirement on April 1, and tourism consultant Berkeley Young said he believes an objective outsider would be best for Natchez.

“There needs to be a clear understanding that this is a professional field, and you need an outside professional to come in and provide leadership,” he said. “Natchez is a place where everybody knows everybody, and the one person that could be objective for the whole community could be from the outside and provide leadership based on experience.”

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Mayor Butch Brown, the CVB board, marketing advisory committee and other tourism stakeholders met with Young last week to offer advice as Natchez embarks on the hunt for a director.

Young’s contract work with the CVB is complete, but the city paid Young to provide consultation on hiring a new director to the city this month.

The fee for a month of consultation was $1,500. His trip fee was $500 plus $900 in airfare, rental car, a room at the Hampton Inn, airport parking and meals, for a total of $2,900.

Young and his team at Young Strategies conducted an extensive eight-month research study in Natchez last year and completed a strategic plan for the CVB.

Young has worked on similar studies and strategic plans for more than 100 destinations in 27 states, including Tupelo, Oxford, Dutchess County, N.Y., and Oakland, Calif.

Young offered a timeline and methods to spread the word about Natchez through the trade organizations.

City officials have also expressed interest in seeking help finding a director from the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism.

Brown said he is working now on appointing members to a search committee that will lead the effort to find a director. Brown said he and the CVB board will decide on the hire, and the board of aldermen will vote to ratify it.

If the search committee is in place and Natchez posts the job advertisement soon through organizations such as Destination Marketing Association International, Young said Natchez could hire a CVB director by early July.

Brown said he wants to have a director in place Sept. 1 at the latest so the hire can be made before the city adopts a budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

In searching for a CVB director, Young said, Natchez is competing with cities such as Vicksburg, Charleston, S.C., or Savannah, Ga.

“For that reason (and) in order to stay competitive, you need to hire an industry pro that knows how the CVB and destination marketing works,” Young said. “There are a lot of them out there that would be interested in coming to Natchez.”

The job of a CVB director is a technical and specific craft, Young said.

“Being a CVB director now and marketing these days is very difficult, and marketing a destination is very different than trying to market a hotel or attraction,” he said. “When you’re using public tax dollars, it’s a unique discipline and a field that now comes with various forms of accreditation.”

A salary for the position has not yet been set, Brown said. Taunton’s salary was $55,000 plus benefits.

Young said he believes $60,000 to $90,000 would be a competitive salary in the industry.

Young is optimistic that Natchez will find an excellent director to lead the CVB.

“I’ve already had people contact me and say, ‘I hear Natchez is looking for a CVB director,’ so there is interest in the industry,” he said.