Next innovative tourism idea around corner

Published 12:01 am Thursday, October 3, 2019

If Richard Peterson had been alive in 1932, he would have been proud of the women who started a tourism craze with the first Spring Pilgrimage.

The guest speaker at Tuesday’s Tourism Summit at the Natchez Convention Center, Peterson is the CEO of the U.S. Cultural and Heritage Marketing Council in San Francisco.

Peterson showed examples of how cities across the nation are using art and events to attract visitors.

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Using video and photographs, Peterson showed how the San Francisco Travel Association uses an annual light show to attract visitors. Peterson said the light show is only one example of how art and music are being used to attract tourists.

“Tourists want hands-on local experiences — music, dance food festivals, sports and other forms of entertainment,” Peterson said. 

For its time, the annual Spring Pilgrimage was that innovative and ground-breaking experience Peterson advocated Tuesday morning.

In 1932, the house tours were such an overwhelming success the crowds of tourists who flocked to the area shocked local leaders. Towns across the region were quick to join the house tour craze.

Times have changed since that first tour. Although Natchez’s history and architecture continue to draw tourists to the area, the size of the crowds is smaller, and the interest of tourists has changed.

One thing hasn’t changed — the need for new, creative solutions to pull people to Southwest Mississippi.

In recent years, local tourism stakeholders have taken great strides toward changing the face of tourism in Natchez. New heritage tours and other diverse offerings are encouraging and are certainly part of the solution.

But Natchez is not done yet.

With the help of people like Peterson, the next innovative idea that will draw even more tourists to the area is just around the corner.

We did it in 1932. We can do it again.