City brings in tourism consultant, gears up for 300th anniversary

NATCHEZ — Tourism consultants will evaluate Natchez in coming months as the city gears up for 300th anniversary celebrations in 2016.

Leaders hope the anniversary will boost the city’s tourism industry over a yearlong period, in part by creating new festivals or extending existing ones, reports The Natchez Democrat.

Consultant Berkeley Young will examine the city’s convention and visitor bureau, survey tourists about Natchez and analyze the area’s hotels and inns.

“You don’t just say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Young told attendees at a tourism summit . “You need research — who are they, why will they come and how long will they stay?”

Tourism chief Connie Taunton says it’s the most comprehensive study of Natchez tourism done since the early 1990s. She said the research will help tourism promoters adjust to market shifts

Young said tourists are now doing more last-minute planning, making shorter trips that are closer to home and are not traveling in the traditional family unit of mother, father and children.

The average tourist in today’s market, Young said, is seeking a luxury experience that is something like therapy.

“For most travelers coming to Natchez, it is the need to come here and leave all their problems behind and relax and have a therapeutic experience that brings them,” he said. “The need to get away trumps the price of gas, the lack of a job and debt, politics and family.

Consultant Jennifer Barbee also spoke at the summit, outlining a plan to market Natchez’s tricentennial into a year-round event that results in full-time full hotel capacity.

Barbee said such a plan would include premiering a new, two-week long food festival named Beer, Bourbon and Biscuits that she said could attract 65,000 people and net the city $875,000 after operational costs.

In conjunction with that, existing festivals and events — including Spring Pilgrimage — could be expanded, and new ideas could be sprinkled throughout the year, she said.

Some of the new ideas Barbee mentioned included a celebrity golf tournament, a historically themed anti-prohibition party and mixology event and a genealogy weekend.

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