Tourism operators should view each other as associates

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 14, 2010

After reading Ann Jones’ letter, “Fresh Ideas on Tourism Development Should Be Welcome,” in the Feb. 7 issue, I felt a need to answer, as one accused of being a “dinosaur.” I know that I am next-to-oldest member of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau board and also the operator of a tourist attraction, but I am a long way from living in the age of the dinosaur.

She is correct on parts of her statements. Tourism numbers are down, but why? First we lost the Queens (riverboats), approximately 15 percent of my business, and then our neighbor, Louisiana, passed a bill that no school can travel outside the state for field trips, another 5 to 7 percent of my visitation. When I factor those out for 2009, my attendance was up by 6 percent, but my revenue was down by 8 percent. So the losses in business would have been lost no matter how much was spent on advertising.

Mrs. Jones received a contract with MDEQ after a letter for the bureau director named her as a single-source provider. The MDEQ paid for more than just a few schools to visit and ride the river for an environmental tour. This helped her business replace a large percentage of her lost visitation, which none of the other attractions benefited from.

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Anyone wishing to appear before the VCVB board is given the same amount of time. This is the same procedure that all boards in the city follow. If your case cannot be stated in the allotted time, then have a written presentation and use your time to bring out the highlights. I resent the remark that anyone coming before the board is “treated with rudeness and you can be punished.” I know of no one who has been punished when appearing before the board. But if not accepting every idea presented is being rude, then I guess we are.

When we quit denying our history and start promoting it, we will see some recovery. Blues Bars, Blues Trails, Tapestry and Murals are all great attractions, but history has been the greatest attraction for the tourism industry in Vicksburg and will continue to be so.

I think of Mrs. Jones as a friend and an associate, since we are in the tourism industry. Everyone involved in tourism should view other attractions as associates, because when one is successful, we will all be successful.

Lamar Roberts

Vicksburg Battlefield Museum