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Jingle Bell Jackson aims to get cash registers ringing

A campaign kicked off last week by the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) aims to get holiday shoppers to spend a little extra time — and money — in the Capital City.

“Jingle Bell Jackson,” a multi-media marketing and advertising push, promotes Jackson’s holiday offerings throughout a 150-mile radius of the city.
The idea is to entice day shoppers to spend a night, or more, in the city, thus turning a one-day trip into a weekend destination.

“There is so much that goes on in Jackson during the holidays,” said Kay Maghan, communication manager for the CVB. “So many people from across central Mississippi come to Jackson to do their Christmas shopping that it was a natural fit to invite these people to stay the night and check out all these other events that are going on.”

The CVB hosted a special marketing and packaging seminar for its members last August with the idea of launching a holiday campaign, and brought in a New Orleans marketing consultant to explain ways the member businesses could develop special packages, package events together and best market and promote packaged products.

“Packaging is a huge trend across the industry,” Maghan explained. “Look at any resort Web site and you’ll find they offer golf packages, spa packages, romance packages, family packages, ski packages and on and on and on. To be competitive, markets like Jackson need to develop more packages that are attractive to consumers both in offering something they want and offering it at a good price.”

Four packages are being offered in this first year of what organizers hope will be an annual campaign. One pairs the Old Capitol Inn with the Mississippi Opera, and includes tickets, lodging, a reception and Southern-style breakfast. Another unites Hampton Inn & Suites and Highland Village Shopping Center, offering accommodations and $25 in “jingle coins,” good at the upscale shopping center. A third is “Christmas at the Edison Walthall.”

“Our package offer runs December 3 through 19 and includes hotel accommodations for two, tickets to New Stage’s’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ admission to Christmas at the Old Capitol, breakfast for two, a wine and cheese welcome package on arrival and a complimentary drink at the hotel lounge,” said Suzanne Davis, sales manager for the Edison Walthall Hotel. “We’ve offered packages in the past in conjunction with events like the Dresden exhibit and have done well with them. Probably 50% of our occupancy during the time that exhibit ran was from individuals and groups who purchased that package.”

In the works

Organizers are still working on the fourth package, a holiday shopping experience with The Hilton Jackson.

“It will be a one- to four-person occupancy shopping package that will include deluxe accommodations, breakfast, a copy of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and complimentary shuttle service between the hotel and the shopping center,” said Kay Cadle, the hotel’s director of marketing. “We are just awaiting approval from our partners, Northpark Mall and perhaps Highland Village. The package will be offered from near Thanksgiving time through the first week of January, for returns and exchanges, and is valid on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.”

Brochures touting the packages were mailed out the second week of November, and radio and print advertising will begin soon. The Jackson CVB also lists all packages offered by its members on its web site at www.visitjackson.com. While packages are being promoted directly to consumers, they are also being marketed to group tour planners and operators, and travel journalists.

Spreading the word

Maghan says this campaign is here to stay, and should only grow and get better as the word spreads and the offerings increase. Her enthusiasm is based on what’s happened with similar campaigns in other cities.

“Most packages take about three years to really get successful,” said Stu Barash of Destinations Marketing Consultants of New Orleans, in his presentation to CVB members. “But you have to keep working on them, adding in or taking out things that will make your package more appealing.”

Barash cited as an example New Orleans’ special holiday promotion, “Christmas New Orleans’ Style,” which began in the early 1990s with packages from a few hotels, restaurants and attractions. Today, he says, the city enjoys a high occupancy holiday season during a month — December — that is traditionally slow for the hotel industry.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Mara Hartmann at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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