National Travel and Tourism Week: A time to celebrate

Published 3:40 pm Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Tourism. For many years, almost 100 in fact, it is what has kept Natchez going — even through hard times.

And last year, one million tourists visited Natchez, accounting for $100 million in economic impact and over 1,800 jobs, making Natchez, on a per capita basis, the top performing tourism destination of any small city in our region.

Sunday kicks off National Travel and Tourism Week, being celebrated across our country from May 19 to May 25. This is indeed a time for Natchez to celebrate, being that tourism continues to be our leading industry.

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From carriage rides to sunsets, Natchez has it all. The events calendar alone rivals any city in our state, with festivals and special celebrations taking place year round. Just last week we hosted a major community carnival on our bluff while so many other happenings, from art shows to concerts were taking place, all at the same time. And our long-cherished Spring and Fall Pilgrimages, along with events like our amazing Balloon Festival, Angels on the Bluff, and Mardi Gras celebrations, continually draw thousands to “our shining city on the river’s highest hill.”

One of the things that excites me the most when I speak of tourism is the growing list of events and ways in which we are celebrating our African American history — telling our whole story. NAPAC, the Natchez African American Museum of History and Culture on Main Street has become a vital partner in telling that story every day. We now have close to 30 identified sites along our city’s self-guided African American History Tour, and special celebrations such as Black History Month in February and Juneteenth, have become times chock full with activities for our entire community to enjoy.

There is no doubt that a robust tourism industry has provided significant economic benefits for our country, and closer to home, our state and city. Tourism has long been a foundation for a healthy workforce, serving as one of the largest private-sector employers in not only our city, but our entire country.

And locally, spending by travelers from all over the world has benefited our city and state government alike, generating tax revenue to support essential services and programs. And Visit Natchez continues to lead the way in making sure an “elevated travel experience” in our Bluff City is promoted regionally, nationally and even internationally. And our Natchez Convention Center continues to draw the best kind of tourists, those who spend multiple nights and spend money at so many of our local businesses while attending large conferences and special programs. Combined with our many events and weekly celebrations, even weddings and private parties, these combined efforts, to include promotions from our local garden clubs, mean many more millions will be coming to enjoy our amazing history, our extraordinary sunsets, and our  stunning historic mansions. We also offer unequaled experiences along the Natchez Trace and in what has been called the “Sportsman’s Paradise” — our beautiful Miss-Lou. And let’s not forget our unrivaled Southern Hospitality. We continue to be recognized as the B&B Capital of the South, with more great bed and breakfast establishments, short term rentals, restaurants and shops than any other city our size. No wonder the river cruise industry calls Natchez their number one tourist city.

And with Magnolia Trace being developed, a $30 million luxury RV resort, we will soon be home to one of the largest and finest such developments in our region, meaning many more tourists will be headed our way!

National Travel and Tourism Week 2024 May 19 – 25. It is indeed a time to celebrate. Because when it comes to tourism, Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.