Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News
May 23, 2014 Friday
Heritage tourism contributes to the economy
BYLINE: Dennis Seid, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
SECTION: BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL NEWS
LENGTH: 490 words
The MHNHA covers all of 19 counties and parts of 11 others most in the northeast part of the state. The designated area bordered by Tennessee, Alabama, Interstate 55 and U.S. Highway 14.
Heritage tourism, Walker explained, "is a strategy in which a site, community or region pursues historic preservation, tourism and economic development by determining interpretive themes, identifying cultural resources tied to the themes, preserving and enhancing the cultural resources and enhancing tourism 'infrastructure.'"
And while manufacturing is the second-largest employment sector in the MHNHA, tourism is among the region's fastest-growing sectors, Walker said. From 2001-2011, overall employment in the region dropped 8.3 percent, while tourism-related jobs -- lodging and food service -- grew by nearly 68 percent.
Walker said the region's tourism market base is "highly dispersed," with only 13 percent of the heritage tourists originating from within the region. International tourists make up 5 percent of the tourists, and up to 30 percent come from other areas of the South.
Music heritage sites and events attract more affluent, international and "big-city" visitors; antebellum home tours attract more regional visitors; and literary heritage sites and events attract more Southerners and students, Walker added.
The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Alliance has the potential to attract up to about 90,000 additional visitors by 2017 for museums in the region and about 40,000 additional visitors to historic sites.
Festivals and events also have big growth potential, with the audience expected to grow by 1.2 million people.
"Heritage tourism has the potential to become one of the primary sectors for the Northeast Mississippi economy," Walker said. "Success with heritage tourism will require strong local commitment with a regional mentality."
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