Thursday, November 15, 2007
Did you know that Heritage tourism is the fastest growing sector of the global tourism enterprise? According to the Travel Industry Association of America, Heritage travelers travel longer (5.2 nights vs. 3.4 nights per trip), they spend more money ($623 vs. $457 per trip) and they visit more than one area (41% vs. 30%). Because of this newly recognized phenomenon, many slated projects are underway.
Senator Thad Cochran has just introduced legislation, three years in the making, to establish the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area which covers 30 counties including Marshall County. Heritage areas offer a unique approach to preservation that seeks to encompass not just the buildings that identify and enrich a place but also the living culture of the people who call the place home.
Heritage areas have proven to build connections between people, their place, and their history by capturing and telling the stories of the people and place. These stories, when linked together, offer a one-of-a-kind experience today’s traveler is seeking, and in turn, also make heritage areas much more than tourist destinations.
Designation as a National Heritage Area provides important recognition of local community-based efforts that preserve its distinctive character. Although there are over 200 heritage areas across the country, there are only 24 Congressionally-designated heritage areas in the United States today.
The Mississippi Hills Heritage Area Alliance — which jumpstarted the legislation — was formed by communities in the Hills region to unify the area. It enables consumers to plan their travels based upon their special interests in music, literature, architecture, Civil War history, arts, African American history and the outdoors — all assets which Holly Springs has in abundance! Similar alliances such as the Natchez Trace Alliance and the Delta Region Alliance have brought huge and sustainable economic impact to the areas they cover.
I’ll be attending a meeting later this month to iron out any kinks and brainstorm on ways to best promote the area; but the Hills Alliance’s new website (www.mississippihills.org) is finally up and running, and it’s fantastic! I am so excited about the project! It helps that images of Holly Springs cover the site; but by allowing us to pool our resources along with counties with much larger budgets, it also allows small bureaus like us to get significantly more advertising exposure than we could otherwise afford.
I am also excited because I know this project will bring all members of our community together, not only to protect those resources that make our community unique and special, but also to show the world all that Holly Springs has to offer!
Tourism Traffic report:
• As you may have already heard, the Kudzu Festival was a great success! Many events, even Oxford’s Double Decker Festival, routinely lose money; so for us to break even is a huge accomplishment. There was no shortage of teams eager to compete in the barbecue competition and the entertainment was phenomenal!
I even got to help out with some of the judging! I had an awesome time and if you weren’t able to go, next year will be bigger and better than ever!
• Thanks to the beautiful weather we had during October, we welcomed 170 visitors here at the tourism office. Many signed up for a chance to receive free tickets to the spring Pilgrimage and asked to receive information on future events here in Holly Springs — which we are always happy to send out. If you or someone you know would like to receive information via e-mail or postal mail, please visit our website at www.visithollysprings.org to register or just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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