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Natchez tourism bureau pursues more visitors
from Staff Reports - NEWS
August 30, 2019 - ListenUpYall.com

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The city’s tourism agency has experienced “an exciting year of new growth” in its efforts to make people aware of Natchez as a travel destination, said its executive director.

In a report presented this week to Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell and the Board of Aldermen, Jennifer Ogden Combs pointed to Visit Natchez’ new emphasis on digital and social-media marketing as a key to more travelers coming to the historic city.

She cited statistics showing the Visit Natchez website has had more than 81,000 clicks since October 2018. Its Facebook page has grown to more than 34,600 followers.

Combs administers the daily operations of Visit Natchez, the city’s tourism bureau, for the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission, which is appointed by the mayor and Board of Aldermen to oversee the city’s tourism programs. At Tuesday’s board meeting, Combs presented Visit Natchez’ proposed budget of $1.6 million for the fiscal year that starts in October.

Much of the funds for this comes from tourism taxes the city imposes at hotels, restaurants and bars. An indicator of how many patrons they’ve been getting the past year shows a decline, according to statistics from the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

In the 12-month period that ended this past June, collections of the city’s special sales tax on hotels, restaurants and bars amounted to $1.29 million. That’s down from the $1.36 million of the previous 12 months going back to 2017, the state tax-collection agency reports.

A separate local tax charged at Natchez hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns totaled about $376,600 in the most recent yearly reporting period. That’s down from the $385,700 collected in the previous 12 months.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the city board and mayor, Alderman Dan Dillard noted the revenues are “trending down” based on tourism-related business. “How are we going to turn that around?” he said.

For its efforts to “sell Natchez as a premier destination for business and leisure travelers,” Combs told Grennell and the board that her agency has contracted a national digital-marketing firm – Advance Travel and Tourism -- to reach new travel audiences. She provided stats showing the Visit Natchez website’s traffic is up by 48 percent with more than 182,600 visits since October.

She also noted Visit Natchez has a public relations/social media firm – Lou Hammond Group – that has spurred “extraordinary growth,” such as the addition of more than 7,000 Facebook followers since October.

As it tries to attract more tourists, Visit Natchez is “developing a more diverse and complete story of Natchez and tourism,” Combs said. This entails concentrating more on Natchez’ 19th century history of slavery. Visit Natchez is sponsoring “heritage tourism” seminars to help those involved in Natchez tourism know more about how to convey the history of blacks enslaved in Natchez-Adams County before the Civil War. One seminar was held in May and another is scheduled Sept. 6.

Combs said Visit Natchez is working to strengthen its partnerships with those who actually operate what attracts tourists – the historic sites, antebellum houses, hotels, restaurants, shops and other attractions. The city tourism office serves as a resource for them and helps market what they have to offer to visitors. Visit Natchez is holding its annual tourism summit Oct. 1 at the Natchez Convention Center.




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