Visit Natchez appoints new community programs manager

Published 10:47 am Friday, August 13, 2021

By Chloe Abernathy 

NATCHEZ — Visit Natchez announced the appointment of Sarah Sookraj, formerly the General Manager of Church Hill Variety, as its new Community and Programs Manager.

Sookraj officially took on the role effective July 26 and while her partner in life, and in the kitchen, Ashley Allen continues to work with Church Hill Variety at Smoot’s, The Little Easy, and the soon to be new restaurant in the Broadway Street Depot — which is scheduled break ground on Monday.

Allen and Sookraj are native the Virgin Islands, where Sookraj said she has gained a lot of experience in the hospitality industry.

Sookraj has served in multiple leadership roles during her career, including Restaurant Manager of Beauregard’s on the Beach in St. Croix and Mirador Restaurant in St. Thomas and Operations Manager at Elite Hospitality Management in St. Thomas and several others. She is a graduate of the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas VI with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, hotel and tourism management.

Visit Natchez Executive Director Devin Heath said that the position that Sookraj will be filling will allow her to work closely with the company’s community partners. He said this position is a part of Visit Natchez’s strategic plan to take a look into what the organization, community partners, and Natchez visitors are looking for so that the company can move Natchez tourism in the right direction.

“Communicating with the community and making sure everyone is dialed in and familiar with the programs, the opportunities, and the resources that are available to them,” Heath said, “is really what she (Sookraj) is engaged with, is how we communicate and support our partners and make sure they are aware of the resources and tools that we have available to them.”

Heath said Sarah’s extensive experience in the hospitality industry, especially with accounting and budget planning, are what made her the perfect addition to the Visit Natchez team.

Sookraj has led operations throughout the United States and the Caribbean, and has worked anywhere from large-scale industries, such as the Ritz-Carlton, to small mom and pop businesses.

Sookraj said she is looking forward to opportunities for the Natchez business community and visitors to see her face and give them more exposure to visitors.

“Because our page has so many viewers, we’re trying to expose all of our restaurants, the B&Bs and the hotels. And even if you want to attend an event here, like Ardenland, who has hosted a few here already, you can see this information on our website before you come to visit. This allows you to see there are exciting things to do in Natchez, in addition to looking at our historical homes.”

Another goal of hers is to encourage more businesses to be open longer, particularly on Sundays and Mondays.

“When people come here on Sunday and nothing is open, it’s not good for us. Most of our tourists come here to spend the weekend and can’t really spend the whole weekend,” she said.

Heath said that the company is looking forward to what Sookraj will be able to deliver through high-quality programming at Visit Natchez. One program he has asked her to develop is a new ticketing platform for the community.

Heath said that this will be one of Sookraj’s first projects with Visit Natchez. The goal will be to set up an online comprehensive ticketing program available on the Visit Natchez webpage. He said with this effort, community partners of Visit Natchez would be able to post event tickets on the Visit Natchez webpage for free. Visitors would then be able to purchase tickets directly from the website, which would help generate larger event sales as consumers would be able to find all they need in one place.