Campaign promotes city as holiday destination

by Lynne W. Jeter

Published: December 12,2005

Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is on a roll with “Jingle Bell Jackson,” a citywide celebration of festive events geared to market the city as a holiday destination.
Only in its second year, the number of special hotel packages has jumped from four to seven, said Jackson CVB spokesperson Mara M. Hartmann.

“We’re very pleased that more hoteliers have jumped on the bandwagon, and they’ve come up with some really creative packages,” she said. “We nearly doubled the number on board this year, and hope to double it again next year.”

Only one hotel — Clarion Hotel and Suites — is offering a flat rate for the month of December instead of a package. “At $69, it’s a great rate,” said Hartmann. “It makes it really easy for you to put your family and friends up in a hotel if you don’t have room in your house or if they want to stay somewhere else.”

Stu Barash, a hospitality marketing consultant from New Orleans, helped the Jackson CVB create the “Jingle Bell Jackson,” patterned loosely after New Orleans CVB’s “Christmas New Orleans Style” holiday marketing program, which features the popular “Papa Noel” specials.

“We expect Jingle Bell Jackson to take four or five years to gain good recognition within markets we are targeting and within our own city, and to really see a good return on investment,” said Hartmann. “I remember it took New Orleans a good 10 years to get Papa Noel going, and then their hotels stayed booked every December until this year, of course, which is an exception.”

This year’s Jingle Bell Jackson ad campaign includes TV, print, outdoor and direct mail marketing within a 150-mile radius; all Mississippi welcome centers have brochures. The Jackson CVB also sponsored a Jingle Bell Jackson getaway package for a family of four through the Southeast Tourism Society Web site.

“We know Mississippians are coming here to shop,” explained Hartmann. “We want to give them reasons to stay a little bit longer and enjoy some other things in Jackson.”

Even though the program centers on hotels, area restaurants and attractions are included in several packages.

“Hotel packaging is the buzzword in tourism now,” said Hartmann. “People want as much bang for the buck as they can get. It’s catching on in Jackson, and we’re glad it’s working well for everybody.”

Mende Malouf Alford, innkeeper at the Old Capitol Inn, is offering two packages this year, including St. Nick’s Pick. For $125 per person, a night’s stay includes a spa treatment at the Earle and Joseph Day Spa, gourmet dinner for two at Bravo! restaurant, wine and hors d’oeuvres at the inn during happy hour and a full Southern breakfast the following morning.

“I think Jingle Bell Jackson is great for our hometown,” said Alford. “Our guests are really enjoying it.”

Jingle Bell Jackson got a boost earlier this year when the Southeast Tourism Society named three of the metro area’s annual events — Mistletoe Marketplace, Chimneyville Crafts Festival and Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree — as “Top 20” events. Also, the Mississippi Advertising Federation awarded the Jackson CVB an Addy for the Maris, West and Baker-created Jingle Bell Jackson logo, artwork that features Santa’s hand ringing the Mississippi Capitol dome like a bell.

The Capital City’s newest holiday attraction is located at Smith Park in downtown Jackson. “Celebration of Lights” is a brilliant illumination winter wonderland display including animated snowflakes and a snow family, tumbling gingerbread men, dozens of poinsettias, an 18-foot Christmas tree, squirrels, a 3-D herd of 20 deer, fish arches, Santa Express, life-sized angels, musical notes and carolers. The annual display will be illuminated nightly until January 7, 2006, and will feature live musical entertainment every Thursday at 5 p.m. and every Friday at noon. The Greater Jackson Arts Council, formerly known as the Hinds County Arts Alliance, is arranging the entertainment.

“Last year, Jingle Bell Jackson kicked off with the opening of Mistletoe Marketplace at the start of November and ran through the first week of January,” said Hartmann. “This year, we delayed the opening somewhat because of a lack of hotel space due to Hurricane Katrina and officially kicked it off at the ‘Celebration of Lights’ opening ceremony on December 3.”

The City of Jackson, Dale and Associates Architects, Downtown Jackson Partners, Entergy Mississippi, French Market Coffee, Hinds County Economic Development District, Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel, P.A., Metrocenter Mall, Arts Council, Mississippi Division of Tourism and Trustmark National Bank are “Celebration of Lights” sponsors.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

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