Thursday, February 7, 2008
Holly Springs picks up tourism award
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Tourism and Recreation Bureau has been tapped for recognition by tourism professionals across the state.
The Mississippi Tourism Association will present Holly Springs its Convention and Visitor’s Bureau of the Year award for CVBs with budgets less than $250,000 annually. The tourism achievement honor will be awarded at the Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism meeting February 17-19 in Jackson.
“We are very excited and honored to receive this award,” said Stephanie Movre, executive director of the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau. “The honor is a tribute to the hard work and support of our board of directors, community leaders, board of aldermen and everyday citizens who make the town of Holly Springs such a wonderful place to visit.”
Movre said the Mississippi Tourism Association recognizes CVBs in three categories according to their budget size - a mid-range of $250,000-$750,000 and a $750,000 and above as well as the smaller tourism bureaus.
Oxford won the award last year for the largest budget category, she said.
Holly Springs received the nomination for the award from the association’s 450-plus members.
“It’s good they have started to recognize the smaller cities,” Movre added. “The Mississippi Department of Tourism gives out grants and the lieutenant governor is working to help smaller cities get grant monies and is finding ways to spotlight smaller CVBs so we can get more grants.”
A large portion of the Holly Springs Tourism Bureau’s advertising budget goes to help promote local events, according to Movre.
“So, whenever anything unexpected - a special project like the Blues Trail - comes up, it’s hard to find the money for it,” she said. “But the small grants help us get ahead.”
Susan Speed, director of the Mississippi Tourism Association, agreed that recognizing CVBs with smaller budgets is important to the development of the overall tourism of the state.
Heritage Tourism is the fastest growing tourism sector now, Movre said.
“I would definitely like the citizens to get behind Heritage Tourism,” she said. “People cannot afford to travel abroad now, so they are staying local. People are interested in the small festivals and the history of things.
“Holly Springs has always been big on history and I think we are moving toward that. Travelers don’t want to just see something, they want to feel it, touch it, talk to someone.”
Visitors who come to Holly Springs often come to touch a hummingbird or to talk to someone about something at Hill Crest Cemetery - the Yellow Fever Martyrs, for example.
Less appealing to tourists today are the big amusement parks.
“Visitors are steering away from expensive vacations and tourism is more like what our parents did in the 1950s and 1960s - domestic travel,” she said.
Holly Springs also sees a lot of international tourists these days.
What most are interested in seeing are the off-beat destinations, Movre said.
Graceland Too gets lots of international traffic because of the popularity of Elvis Presley.
Phillips Grocery, the blues, Rust College and more recently Aikei Pro’s Record Shop are places out-of-county visitors come to see.
The word is also getting out about the Mississippi Hill Country Picnic.
Graceland Too was rated Best Off-Beat Destination by readers of Mississippi Magazine.
“That’s what’s cool about the Blues Trail,” said Movre. “That’s going to bring in a lot of international travelers. It’s a big deal for people to stand in a field at a marker that says a blues joint used to be here.”
The Holly Springs Recreation and Tourism Bureau was established in 1999 and is funded by a two percent tourism tax paid by anyone who stays at a local motel, or who buys prepared food or beverages.
The bureau gets one cent of every two cents on the dollar that comes in. The other penny goes to pay off the debt on the Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Multi-Purpose Building.
Movre said the tourism bureau wants the area to become a vacation destination for visitors. The number of visitors increased this year by 15 percent over the previous year.
“Our primary goal is to bring visitors into our hotels, stores, and restaurants and to our attractions, and to encourage them to spend money in our community,” she said.
The tourism bureau primarily targets visitors living outside a 200-mile radius of Holly Springs in its advertising. The goal is to get visitors to stay longer and spend more of their vacation time in the area.
The tourism bureau sponsors local programs and events through its advertising dollar, especially any event that has appeal for travelers.
Examples are the Hummingbird Migration Celebration, the Kudzu Festival, the Christmas home tour, the Charity Walking Horse Classic, the Holly Springs Pilgrimage, the Mississippi Hill Country Blues Picnic, the African American Festival and the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Festival.
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