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Tourism summit to focus on community uniqueness
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Rural communities in Mississippi and Louisiana have unique cultural atmospheres, attractions and small-town qualities that tourists enjoy.
The fourth annual Regional Tourism Summit of the Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association can help community representatives identify these elements and design a creative marketing plan to bring visitors to the area.
The summit will be held Aug. 11-13 at the Paragon Casino in Marksville, La. The theme is “Gateways to Get-A-Ways: Preserving the Past, Preparing for the Future.”
“The summit will address issues that are key to small communities in Mississippi and Louisiana that need strong marketing but may not have the facilities that bigger towns often rely upon to draw tourists, such as a university, a large hotel or amusement park, or a shopping mall,” said Rachael Carter, a community-instituted planning specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Many communities cannot afford big-budget advertising, and panel discussions with professionals will address this issue by showing participants how to use marketing tools they do not realize they have, such as communication technology made possible with cell phones and the Internet.
Participants also will learn how to avoid legal pitfalls that sometimes go undetected.
“Liability and risk management issues are hot topics for people involved in tourism planning,” Carter said. “Communities need to be aware of how they can protect themselves when they invite people into their area.”
Leading a panel discussion on liability issues will be Dora Ann Hatch, a community rural development area agent with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. Hatch has worked with many communities in her state to address liability issues in agritourism ventures.
Cliff Deal, director of museums for the Louisiana Department of State, will lead a session on how communities can pull together resources and local talent to create a unique showplace for artifacts, art and cultural events that reflect the historical significance of the area.
Mariah Smith, computer applications instructor with the MSU Extension Service, will hold a workshop that explores the facets of marketing with Web sites and social networks such as MySpace, Facebook and Internet blogs.
Another workshop will show participants how to combine unique community features into successful themes for local festivals.
“This conference will offer a quality educational experience at a low cost to participants,” Carter said. “We hope communities will take advantage of the information and promotional tools we have included.”
Interested participants can visit http://srdc.msstate.edu/misslou to obtain a registration form and lodging information. Cost of registration is $75 per person by July 10 and $100 after that date.
Registration forms and payment should be mailed to the Miss-Lou Tourism Association, P.O. Box 2180, Natchez, MS 39121. Participants can contact Carter at (662) 325-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Writer: Patti Drapala