Visit Natchez impresses at 2023 Tourism Summit

Published 9:33 am Monday, October 2, 2023

Thursday, it was my pleasure to attend the 2023 Visit Natchez Annual Tourism Summit. Visit Natchez, under the direction of our Natchez Convention Promotion Commission (NCPC) and the leadership of Executive Director Devin Heath, does an incredible job of marketing our city all over the world.

Each year they hold a summit at the Natchez Convention Center and not only give updates on their current operations but also bring in notable personalities in the tourism, marketing, and public relations industries who share priceless information to our tourism partners.

The conference began with welcomes from both NCPC Board President Helen Moss Smith and Heath, who welcomed elected officials in attendance, including Senator Kelvin Butler of the Mississippi State Senate.

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Heath then gave an introduction of members of the Tourism Marketing Advisory Committee who advise Visit Natchez on its annual marketing plan and budget with each committee member representing a different segment of the tourism industry in Natchez.

He also gave an overview of Visit Natchez’s duties and operations and presented a financial report for the past year.

Next, attendees heard from Zeek Coleman, Vice President, Americas at Tourism Economics. Coleman is one of the foremost leaders in travel research and analysis, spearheading the delivery of research solutions to DMO, association, and corporate clients. During his presentation, Coleman did a deep dive into statistics and analytics relevant to tourism in 2023. We learned that while a recession is possible for Q4 of this year and Q1 of next year, many American households are still carrying healthy balance sheets and are enthusiastic about traveling in the next year.

These encouraging trends forecast a healthy future for tourism in Natchez!

Next, we heard staff reports from the Visit Natchez team. First, Lynsey Gilbert gave an update on tourism sales and conferences for Natchez as she works to keep agencies and groups invested in both regionally and internationally.  Jessica Cauthen gave an update on Visit Natchez’s marketing operations and reported that during the last year Visit Natchez received over one billion social media impressions – a record-breaking statistic to say the least!  Mallory Lancaster gave an excellent report on how tourism partners are contributing to a vibrant tourism industry in our beautiful city. And last, but not least, Dr. Roscoe Barnes shared great news on expanded cultural tourism, including a few headlines from over fifty articles he has published for Visit Natchez regarding Natchez culture and heritage in periodicals far and wide.

Von Gordon, executive director and youth engagement manager at The Alluvial Collective, gave an incredible presentation on healing and acceptance. He spoke about building deep relationships and resilient connections that drive cultural transformation. In order to continue being the city that people immediately fall in love with, it is important that we work as a collective unit in all that we do. Continuing to come together has been, and will continue to be, the recipe for our success. Gordon provided great ideas for ways to enhance what we are doing in order to make even greater strides forward.

There were three breakout sessions led by industry leaders in the latter part of the summit. Ray Haydrick and Tim Baumgardner of Advance Travel and Tourism gave an in-depth session on enhancing social media presence across different platforms. Daryl Whitworth with Madden Media led discussions on growing our tourism base and enhancing our community through positive visitor and economic growth. Gina Stouffer and Hartley Inge of Lou Hammond Group facilitated a great conversation on public relations and making an impact in both print and digital media.

Devin Heath and his team are doing a wonderful job promoting tourism in Natchez – and Thursday’s summit meeting was proof positive of this! Working with Visit Natchez has been an absolute joy. I am especially grateful to all our tour partners who work so hard to accomplish so much for our city, and I can’t wait to see the development take place of our new downtown Visitors Center at the Historic Depot on our Natchez Bluff. Over one million visitors coming to Natchez each year, with an overall impact of over $100 million to our local economy, means JOBS. We must continue telling, and selling, our story – all of it. Because Natchez Deserves More!


Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.