Vicksburg tourism on the rise as people are eager to visit after a year of lockdowns

Published 10:35 am Friday, August 20, 2021

Tourism has been on the rise in Vicksburg this year, surpassing not just last year’s lockdown-impacted numbers but also 2019’s hospitality collections.

The summer months are the busiest time for tourism in Vicksburg, and the latest data from June shows a 23.5 percent increase from 2020 and an 18.7 percent increase from 2019. Executive Director at Visit Vicksburg, Laura Beth Strickland, said it is to be expected that tourism has grown compared to 2020 as shutdowns took place within the year, but the numbers have also far surpassed pre-pandemic 2019.

Of course, we are better than last year when everything was shut down or just getting to reopen around this time,” Strickland said. “But our April, May and June were very good months.”

Strickland said she credits the rise in tourism to people wanting to get out of the house after shutdowns and the attractions beginning to open up once again. During Memorial Day weekend, the Vicksburg National Military Park’s visitor center opened again and Strickland said that was a big draw for people to come to visit.

“I think a lot of it has to do with [the visitor center] and how the administration has really been handling everything with reopening,” Strickland said.

She said Vicksburg has become a safe place for people to come and explore during the pandemic, which has lured many visitors into the area. Additionally, Visit Vicksburg launched a campaign promoting Vicksburg as a state travel destination and Strickland said the city is now reaping the benefits of that marketing strategy.

There’s a demand and Vicksburg is a great place to do that,” Strickland said. “We have a lot of things that you can do outdoors, and we have lots of places where you can social distance. Our museums have done a really great job of their reopening.”

Strickland said that Mississippians and Texans are always at the top of the most tourists list, but this June the top 10 home states of tourists included Louisiana, California, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Georgia. Some of the tourists have participated in Visit Vicksburg’s new passport program. The Vicksburg Passport is a chance for people to visit multiple attractions throughout the city, getting a stamp from each place. A passport is completed once the person has five or more stamps on their passport. Upon completion, they receive a free t-shirt.

“[The program] is going really well,” Strickland said. “We have given out 1,283 t-shirts since spring break.”

The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau’s hospitality collections have reached $718,736.16 just through June — set so far to surpass 2020’s total for the year of $1,192,867.64 and also exceed 2019’s total of $1,305,450.85. These totals come from the tax percentage The Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau receives from tourism within the city. There is a 1 percent countywide hospitality tax on restaurants and lodging properties. Additionally, there is a 2 percent hospitality tax within the city limits on restaurants and lodging properties that goes directly to the City of Vicksburg for the sports complex.

The more money that we can generate from outside visitors, the more we are contributing to our economy,” Strickland said. “We get the 1 percent back to promote Vicksburg but all that the city gets they can use for water and gas, roads and all the things that make cities work better without taxing our citizens.”

Though the county is in the midst of the latest COVID-19 surge due to the Delta variant, Strickland said she is not anticipating much impact on tourism in the coming months.

We haven’t started getting cancelations, which is a good sign,” Strickland said. “[Tourists] always lag a bit in August and September mainly because it’s hot and then they pick up in October, November and December.”

She said there were no cancellations of tours in July and, to her knowledge, there haven’t been any in August either — compared to mass cancellations in 2020. In July, Strickland said there were 38 group tours, most of which were riverboats.

We are just so grateful that we live in a tourist community and to have so many great things for people to do when they get here,” Strickland said.