Riverboat visitors could top 40,000 in 2017
Last year, more than 30,000 visitors made their way to Vicksburg by way of a variety of riverboats. They stepped off on the city’s waterfront and made their way in and around the sights and shops in Vicksburg, bringing with them a significant economic impact.
This year that impact is expected to be even bigger, as more than 40,000 are expected to visit.
It is that growth and the economic impact that has city leaders and tourism officials particularly excited.
“The rooms on the riverboats these guests travel in are not very big. They are not able to take back with them a lot of items,” Bill Serrat, executive director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “But, the knowledge and impression they gain from their stop in Vicksburg is what they do take with them.
“It is not so much the money they spend,” he said. “But, the brand awareness and the things they say about Vicksburg is tremendously important. It is what encourages others to come and see Vicksburg for themselves.”
And the hospitality of the Red Carpet City will be on display and tested on Nov. 15, when there are currently no less than four riverboats scheduled to dock in Vicksburg on the same day.
“The captains are very skilled at what they do and there are enough tie ups at the riverfront to accommodate those boats,” Serrat said.
Officials have already started discussing plans for events and logistical needs to meet the demand of four boats at the same time.
“I know that Main Street and the Vicksburg Police Department will be working to make sure buses can get through the Levee Street area, as there will be a lot of people getting on buses to go out and see the city,” Serrat said.
That November date is just part of an overall increase the city has seen in recent years when it comes to riverboat traffic.
“It is definitely increased,” Serrat said. “More boats are stopping and more trips up and down the Mississippi are scheduled.”
Serrat says that the increase and the economic impact places more importance on improvements needed to the arrival experience.
“It has to be perfection,” Serrat said of the arrival area and the initial impression for visitors. “We have had discussions with the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State to look at plans to improve that experience and what enhancements can be made.”
According to the center’s website, their mission is: “Promote good design and planning for small towns, Promote regional planning and cooperation between communities, Encourage the development of public space and life within towns and communities, Promote sustainable development, Influence public policy on the built environment, Provide towns and communities with an active resource center for contemporary small town design issues, Promote collaboration between communities, students and faculty.”
As for the economic impact, the American Queen, the largest of the boats that routinely visits Vicksburg, estimates a $23,000 to $27,000 impact each time it stops in Vicksburg.