Tour operators see city; will be back with busloads

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 17, 2002

[04/17/02]A group of tour operators from across North America was in Vicksburg Monday and Tuesday to evaluate the area for their customers and several said they plan to return.

“I think people of all ages and walks of life would find an interest in Vicksburg and what it has to offer,” said Des Lester, who books tours from Anchorage, Alaska.

The nine visitors are members of the National Tourism Association. They saw Vicksburg’s sites as part of a pre-familiarization tour before the NTA’s Annual Tour Operator Spring Meet that opens today on the Gulf Coast.

“We can see cities anywhere, but this is a historical area,” said Cynthia Billette of Portland, Ore. “I plan to bring groups back here during the pilgrimage period.”

Having first been to Laurel, Meridian and Jackson, the group ate at the The Biscuit Company and stayed at Ameristar Casino Hotel. Tuesday included a guided tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park and the Old Court House Museum, topped off with lunch at the Anchuca mansion and tour home. After departing, the group traveled to Port Gibson and on to Natchez.

“The area is a lot more beautiful than I expected,” said Lester. “I think out of the entire trip, today has been most interesting for me and my husband.”

Janet Delesalle, an operator from Kamloops, British Columbia, described Vicksburg as “fascinating.”

“I would love to come back,” she said.

“As a Canadian we don’t get a lot of American history particularly about the Civil War. I can’t wait to get home and read more about it.”

Named “Trails of Mississippi,” the optional tour is one of three coordinated this year by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. The other tours included trips through Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

Bus tours are a big part of Warren County’s tourism economy, bringing in about $1.8 million in 2001, said Al Elmore of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Elmore said 1996 had the largest number of bus tours with 734, and 2001 was second largest with 699; 529 of which were booked through the VCVB office.

Elmore said he hopes 2002 will be just as successful.

“As of today, we had 435 bus tours booked for this year,” he said.