Governor’s Conference on Tourism here Sept. 27-29

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism is coming to Vicksburg for the first time in its 27 years.

“I’m actually very surprised we’ve never had it in Vicksburg. I don’t know why it’s never be chosen to be in Vicksburg, but I’m really proud that we’re actually having it in Vicksburg this year,” Mississippi Tourism Association executive director Rochelle Hicks said, adding Vicksburg was voted on unanimously by the board to be the host city.

The three-day conference starts Sunday, Sept. 27, and will go through Tuesday, Sept. 29. Attendees will include 250 to 300 tourism professionals, hotels, restaurants, conventions and visitors bureaus and stakeholders from around the state.

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“I think it’s very important for the city in that, these are the people that go out into the marketing world and sell Mississippi as a destination. It is important to cross promote each market,” Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Bill Seratt said.

Vicksburg Convention Center executive director Annette Kirklin likened the conference’s impact on the city to Vicksburg Main Street’s semifinalist nomination for the Great American Main Street Award. She said this conference is another way the community is able to get the word out on all the progress Vicksburg has made as a city, and Seratt had similar feelings.

“It is an opportunity for us to show the industry what we do best and that is hosting guests from around the state and around the country,” Seratt said.

The convention is filled with workshop sessions on business, international tourism and a gaming, to name a few. They try to have something for everyone.

“We try to have sessions that focus on different things that somebody from different areas of the industry are interested in,” Hicks said.

Sunday kicks off with activities around town the guest can choose to participate in like golf at the Vicksburg Country Club, an open-air bus tour through Vicksburg National Military Park and a shopping extravaganza with the Outlets at Vicksburg. In the evening, there will be an opening reception presented by the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

“We are throwing a hospitality shindig to welcome the tourism industry of Mississippi to the historic city of Vicksburg,” Seratt said.

The agenda for Monday is filled with session and speakers at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The main speaker on this day is Brian Jay Jones, a New York Times best selling biographer.

A silent auction will be on display Monday evening with the benefits going to the Mississippi Tourism Association. That night will be the Vicksburg Dine Around where the visitors will chose which Vicksburg restaurant they would like to try.

“There is a little time for them to get out and see Vicksburg,” Seratt said. “Many of the people may not have been here for a while, and we’re very excited about showcasing the Vicksburg tourism products to our partners from throughout the state.”

Tuesday is the awards luncheon. Every year Gov. Phil Bryant is invited to help give out awards at the luncheon. At this time they do not know if he will be able to attend.

“Hopefully the governor will be here at the awards luncheon on that Tuesday to present the governors awards for excellence in tourism,” Seratt said.

Vicksburg had been nominated for several of the awards being presented at the luncheon.

The Mississippi Tourism Association handles most of the planning of the conference with the host city stepping in to fill the long-distance gaps. Monthly meetings have been going on in Vicksburg to help plan the conference and Kirklin said it has been a group effort with tons of partnerships.

“We don’t want anything to fall through the cracks because this is super important,” Kirklin said.

Kirklin said all attendees who had their reservations canceled by Portofino Hotel have found a place to stay with many going to the casinos’ hotels. Luckily, the conference will be able to use the new motor coach to shuttle the visitors around town.

Hicks commended Vicksburg’s hard work.

“Bill and Laura Beth at the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau have done a great job of setting out the welcome mat for us and really trying to make this a great event for Vicksburg and for the Mississippi Tourism Association,” Hicks said.