Hed: Tupelo plans Tourism Week celebration
By Philip Moulden
Tupelo tourism officials plan a major celebration this week to point out the region’s tourist attractions and to laud the people who make visitors welcome.
The observance will be highlighted Wednesday with numerous special events, including surprise gifts to randomly selected out-of-town visitors and a banquet for the people who make tourism work.
“This is really a regional thing,” noted Sam Fleming Jr., executive director of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau. “All the cities around here have helped make us what we are.”
Special banners proclaiming “Tourism Works for America” will hang over city streets, and volunteers will be posted at eight Tupelo locations Wednesday to hand out buttons bearing the slogan as well as litter bags, brochures and guides citing Tupelo and area facilities.
The materials will also be distributed through area tourist facilities, including the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, the Natchez Trace Visitor’s Center and Tombigbee State Park.
Tourism recognition “tents” will be placed on area restaurant tables and motel desks.
“It’s a community effort,” noted Pat Rasberry, convention bureau assistant director.
Rasberry said interim Tupelo Police Chief Jerry Crocker has agreed to have police stop three out-of-state cars Wednesday. Their penalty should prove pleasurable.
The vehicles’ occupants will be rewarded with a free night’s lodging donated by three local motels and free meals donated by three local restaurants as well as other gifts, Rasberry said.
“We want to stop them and tell them how much we appreciate them coming to Tupelo,” she said. “We’re really going to present a major hospitality campaign that day. We’re going to roll out the red carpet.”
The banquet is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Tupelo Coliseum. About 350 guests are expected.
“We never attempted before to do something to thank the people who have made us what we are,” Fleming said. “So many people, so many organizations helped us when there was no money available …”
Guest speakers will include state Tourism Director Vaughn Stinson.
“It’s just going to be a gala affair,” Fleming said.
The success of the city’s tourism effort has been reflected in receipts from the 2 percent tourism tax and the transition of the Convention & Visitors Bureau from a small City Hall cubbyhole to a attractive building on Main Street, Fleming noted.
“It (tourist tax revenue) has shown a constant increase and that’s why we’ve been able to do some things without hitting the (local) taxpayers,” he said. “We’re on the right track.”
But Fleming noted that without some of the draws other areas offer, such as casinos, theme parks, or beaches, the region must find others draws for tourists and pastimes for conventioneers.
“We’ve got to be very innovative and come up with things that spouses and children can do when they come to our city for conventions,” he said.
“We tell people, ‘This is just the beginning. Let’s continue to move toward another level.'”