VCVB continuing to chart impressive course

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 17, 2009

If farmers have a bad year, it’s usually due to the weather. Nothing can be done about that. If the Corps of Engineers expands or contracts, Vicksburg will benefit or suffer, but has little direct say. The community can try to recruit retailers and manufacturers, but in doing so competes with communities nationwide. There’s really no influence over casinos, which primarily serve a transient market. Health-care and education assets are important components in a local economy, but usually mirror demand as opposed to driving it.

As has been said before, the one industry where the people here hold the most sway is historic and environmental tourism. It’s where every person can make a difference, and it’s why having an organization such as the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau engage in aggressive and forward-thinking planning and execution is crucial.

The people who founded the local agency and arranged to have it stand independent of local politics and with its own, dedicated funding source realized this. And their initiative has had terrific results.

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The agency again is moving decisively to position and promote this city and its myriad attractions. Executive Director Bill Seratt is settling in and there’s a stronger sense of cohesion and purpose for the board.

Last week, a $120,000, three-month-long renovation of the 30-year-old visitor center on Clay Street was unveiled. “It’s like a brand-new building,” Seratt said, and it is.

A new VCVB Web site was created and launched in April, two of three brochures are ready and a regional advertising campaign is in process. The VCVB and tour-home owners also teamed to launch Tapestry in the spring, an inventive and reinvented form of packaged tours.

“If you build it, they will come,” might work for ball parks. It doesn’t for towns. Vicksburg, which has so much to offer travelers from near and far, has to get the word out, which is the VCVB’s job. And once visitors arrive, it’s a job everyone here shares to make sure their stay is informative, enjoyable and worthwhile.

Tourism can be our economic safe house during a national recession. Seratt and the VCVB know this and deserve sincere support.