3Qs: Mary-Kathryn Herrington, Oxford’s director of tourism

By NEMS Daily Journal

Oxford and Ole Miss frequently receive positive national attention, but lately the accolades have stacked up with recent features in the New York Times, Parade Magazine and Tailgating Magazine.
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens spoke with Mary-Kathryn Herrington, director of tourism for the Oxford Convention and Visitors Bureau, about the impact of such publicity and what’s behind it.
Q. For a community of its size, Oxford gets an incredible amount of national media exposure, including lead articles in both Parade magazine and the New York Times travel section a week ago. What role do you and other tourism professionals play in cultivating such publicity?
A. The kind of credibility and exposure that articles like the ones we’ve seen recently in the New York Times and Parade garner is absolutely priceless – even more so in today’s climate of social media. We can buy ads in lots of publications, but the New York Times reaches such a national audience that we could never reach with our budget.
Some writers like to see the town from your perspective, and others like to see it as if they were just an average tourist.
At the very least, if we know a writer is coming into town, we try to make sure they have maps and brochures to help them navigate and perhaps point out some spots that are off the beaten path.
Q. What are some of the immediate responses when Oxford gets such exposure?
A. Locally, there always seems to be a lot of buzz. I think people are always excited to see a place they take pride in featured on such a national platform. We often find that Ole Miss alumni have an amazing sense of nostalgia for their time in Oxford and at Ole Miss. From a tourism perspective, they also generate lots of inquiries. We get people calling all the time saying they saw an article and they want to go to that certain place. A few years ago the New York Times ran a “36 hours in Oxford, Mississippi” feature and we’ve had people bring that article in that they’ve been saving for years!
Q. Faulkner and football (with the co-requisite tailgating) are Oxford’s best-known cultural assets. What else draws people to this town, both to visit and to live?
A. Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home, may be first on visitors’ lists, but the home of L.Q.C. Lamar, who was profiled in “Profiles in Courage,” is poised to grow as a big attraction. Cedar Oaks, one of Oxford’s antebellum homes, reaches visitors with its story as “the house that would not die.” The University Museum is a major stop for visitors, and one best-kept secret is the Civil Rights Monument on campus.
Whether you visit Square Books and hear a reading, take in Thacker Mountain Radio or just sit on a balcony with a glass of wine before heading to dinner at one of our restaurants, Oxford can be as much fun to visit on a slow weekend as on a game weekend. Some people might even argue that those are the times when you can really get a feel for true Oxford.