Local tourism tax receipts tallied at $10,000 more than previous year|[02/09/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tax receipts returned to Vicksburg’s main funding arm for tourism for December show an increase of more than $10,000 over the previous year.

The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau received $79,411.13, collected on a 1 percent tax added to hotel rooms and restaurant and bar tabs. The money collected monthly from the Mississippi Tax Commission goes to pay staff and promote tourism. Last year’s December receipts were $68,823.55.

No discussion on the reason for the increase came during a Thursday meeting in which the agency’s board heard reports from executive director Bill Seratt that reflected increases in visitors at tourism information centers.

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In December, the centers reported 2,751 visitors, an increase of 60 over last year’s 2,691. International visitors in December increased from 30 in 2006 to 51 in 2007, with the most traveling from Canada and Germany.

Civil War sites seem to be the biggest draw for tourists, Seratt said, reporting 163 visitors who came to Vicksburg for that purpose in December. Other visits showed 77 people passing through, 38 visiting family, 25 shopping, 18 staying in bed and breakfast inns, 17 on business, 11 in town for conventions, eight here to gamble and 136 who listed “other” as their reason for visiting. A similar report showed a total of 14,257 visitors throughout 2007. More than 6,000 visitors stayed an average of two days to hit the Civil War sites, the most “walk-ins by purpose of visit” charted.

Visitors to tourist attractions increased for the last month of 2007 in two places. The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum saw 768 visitors compared to 506 the previous December. The Old Court House Museum was visited by 911, up from 608 the previous year. Sites that fell short were the Vicksburg Battlefield Museum, charting 430 opposed to the previous year’s 514, and the Vicksburg National Military Park, which had 30,561 visitors compared to 35,058 in 2006.

After the board heard reports for about 25 minutes, they went into executive session to approve an amendment to the employee handbook, discuss a legal matter and discuss a personnel issue, board chairman Nelda Sampey said. After the session, which lasted about an hour and a half, Sampey reported that the board had discussed a “liability with insurance, an adaptation to the handbook with workman’s comp and disposition of the Washington Street property.”

After the executive session, Seratt indicated the board had received an offer on the former VCVB headquarters at 1221 Washington St., vacated after the collapse of a neighboring building. Seratt said a legal contract was in negotiation and couldn’t be discussed.

This marks the second time the board has received an offer on the vacant building, although, Seratt said, it has never been on the market. The first possibility of selling came in June when a Florida man made an offer on the building. The board countered with what Seratt said at the time was “fair market price,” and the proposed buyer never came back to accept the offer. The current headquarters for VCVB executive staff is at Old Highway 27 and Clay Street on the site of its visitor information center. The modular home was donated in April on a two-year agreement with the understanding that the tourism operation would move back downtown after a resolution on the collapsed building.