‘Stakeholders’ gather for tourism summit

Published 10:46 am Wednesday, October 20, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Devin Heath, director of Visit Natchez, and his staff presented the annual Natchez Tourism Summit this morning to about 70 community “stakeholders.”

Stakeholders include restaurant owners, owners of historic houses and bed and breakfasts, hotel owners and business owners and city and county officials here.

Heath’s message was one of thank you to the Natchez community for valuable help in selling the city to tourist who visit. He also talked with the group about what Visit Natchez is working on now and where it is headed.

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Visit Natchez is in the process of concluding a strategic plan with the help of Don Anderson and DCG Consultancy.

“We have developed organizational guidance that has on top of a mission statement a vision statement and diversity, equity and inclusion statements and organizational values. Those will guide everything we do,” Heath said. “We have previously had a mission statement, but we didn’t have a vision or diversity, equity, inclusion and values propositions.”

The Visit Natchez mission statement is the mission of the NCPC and Visit Natchez, as the city’s official destination marketing organization, is to increase the economic impact of tourism in Natchez by developing and promoting the city to individual and group visitors.

The vision statement is to be the preeminent destination in the South for immersive cultural heritage, live music, social events, film tourism and exciting outdoor recreation.

The diversity, equity and inclusion statement is at Visit Natchez, we continue to build a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion and are dedicated to creating opportunities for all of our community and our visitors to join in the Natchez experience.

The values identified as key at Visit Natchez include being visionary and strategic, innovative, open and transparent, inclusive and collaborative and accountable.

“Don Anderson is actually the leader in the destination marketing world. He came here several times. It was a multiple month project. He met with community leaders and stakeholders, met with staff and with the board. We talked through successes and challenges and he helped us formulate not only the organizational guidance and the strategic plan, which includes goals and metrics. We are just about finished with that process,” Heath said.

Visit Natchez is in the midst of conducting a brand study and will roll out new branding by the beginning of the year, he said. In addition, work will begin soon on a new visitors’ guide.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Natchez is we are a one trick pony, but that isn’t true. We are so multifaceted and we are going to deploy resources to highlight as many of those aspects as possible.”

Visit Natchez also plans to reopen the Natchez Film Office, which operated until about 2015, he said.

“We are equally excited about reopening the Natchez Film Office,” Heath said. “With all of the films that are coming our here, the purpose of that office is to provide support to those who are scouting out film. We will provide information and be a resource. We are focused on selling Natchez and providing any film production guidance or resources.”

Visit Natchez is in place at its new location at 500 Main St., Suite 1, behind Home Bank.

“We have had a lot of turnover at the Visit Natchez team and we have a lot of new folks. We wanted the community to have a clear understanding of where are headed and what we are planning to do,” Heath said. “The team is kicking it up another notch now and tourism is really a focus of this community, which is great and the community’s embrace of it is wonderful.”

Heath thanked all in Natchez and Adams County for the work residents do to make visitors feel welcome.

“When I came to look at Natchez, everyone was so warm and welcoming. They didn’t know who I was. I was just another person they saw at the restaurant or hotel or shop. All left me with this warm and friendly feeling. Continuing to get our community to provide that kind of experience for visitors is paramount.”