Group wants to promote tourism in rural areas

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - A group of tourism officials will meet

this week to come up with ideas to promote rural areas in

Mississippi and Louisiana.

The Miss-Lou Rural Tourism Association is comprised of 16

parishes in Louisiana and 17 Mississippi counties that are located

near the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast.

The group hold its third annual summit in Vicksburg Tuesday

through Thursday at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center.

The event is hosted by different departments in the two states

and will provide information through seminars and field trips on

the Mississippi River.

The goal is to teach tourism officials, landowners and the

public how to promote their rural communities as agri-tourism,

recreational and historical destinations.

"A lot of visitors will - if they're heading for New Orleans -

be zipping through the state and not realize what they're passing

by," said association president Sally Durkin. "A lot of the

little communities have things to offer that may be of interest to

tourists, but the people of those communities don't know how to get

them over."

The summit will explain several ways small communities can use

their existing resources - like museums, historical buildings and

old churches, festivals and agriculture industries - to create


"There's not much in Tupelo, but guess who was born there?

Elvis," Durkin said. "Thousands of people go through there to see

the birthplace of Elvis. People will pay money to see these

attractions, and even if they're just buying gas or grabbing a

soda, they're in effect putting money into that rural community."

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Program Director

Kay Burton in Mississippi said the association "fits" Lincoln

County, as it has plenty of rural and agricultural attractions -

like farm and local history tours - that can be marketed as

"edutainment" attractions.

One of the biggest attractions in the county, she said, is

Brookhaven's downtown district.

"Our downtown is a tourist attraction," Burton said. "It's

not a big thing, but it draws a lot of people. People just love to

come down and see our local history."


Information from: The Daily Leader,

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)