JACKSON, Miss. -- The Mississippi Division of Tourism Development
is preparing new tour itineraries to promote to group operators.
It will introduce antiquing and collectibles itineraries and an
African-American heritage suggested tour.
The tours will be added in January as an addendum to its 2001
group tour planner.
"Operators are always looking for new places off the beaten
track," said Rhonda Williams, the division's senior manager,
"They tell us that clients want more time for shopping, so we're
developing antiquing and collectibles [tours]," she said.
There will be two four-night antiquing/collectibles itineraries,
one beginning and ending in Memphis, covering the north, and the
other starting in Jackson and including the Gulf Coast.
The African-American heritage tour, similar to an existing
five-night suggested tour, will run from north to south, covering
some of the same cities but adding others to include new
The itineraries join a dozen other themed tours in the group
planner, varying in length from three to five night and covering
such interests as casinos, music, heritage, the Civil War,
agriculture, Christmas and two scenic highways -- the Natchez Trace
and the Gulf Coast.
Gaming has been the driving force in Mississippi's group travel
"Gaming might be the big draw," said Williams, "but people come
on casino tours and see that we have much more to offer. Diversity
is one of our strongest assets."
She believes the state is well positioned for a growing
baby-boomer market looking for more active group vacations.
"We have biking and canoeing. Golf is exploding; we have more
than 150 golf courses. Casinos are packaging golf, and we'll be
working on it for group travel in the future," she said.
She added that the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament held at
West Point, Miss., last year gave the state good exposure.
As an example of growth in recreational facilities, Hattiesburg
in the south has three new golf courses, and a 42-mile recreational
trail, including biking, recently opened on what had been a
"Heritage tours, including Civil War sites, and music tours
continue to be popular and provide a tremendous amount of tour bus
business," she said. "Pilgrimage tours are also popular."
A handful of cities have spring pilgrimage tours, opening
historical homes and estates to the public.
The tours were started during the 1930s in Natchez, which also
has fall pilgrimage tours.
Mississippi is experiencing growth in Christmas holiday tours,
Hancock County, along the Gulf Coast, for example, will have its
first holiday tours this year, she said.
Several operators, she said, have added crafts and artisans
tours this year.
Another tour route growing in popularity, Williams said, is the
Natchez Trace; 310 miles of the 440-mile scenic highway operated by
the National Park Service is in Mississippi.
For additional information, contact the division's groups
department at (888) 868-7267.
For a copy of the group tour planner, agents can fill out a form
in the group section on the division's Web site at www.visitmississippi.org.