Visit Jackson Kicks Off NTTW 21

Rickey Thigpen (Visit Jackson), Chris Chapman (Visit Ridgeland), Senator John Horhn, Representative Deborah Gibbs and Janna Dear (Canton Tourism) showcase a ceremonial check – more than $618M – representing area economic impact attributed to tourism.

Visit Jackson kicked off National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) today at The District at Eastover with the announcement of a local tourism partnership, a review of economic impact over the last year, and the introduction of the 2021 Miss and Little Miss Jackson Hospitality.

President and CEO of Visit Jackson Rickey Thigpen unveiled the Capital Area Tourism Association (CATA), a collaboration between his organization, Visit Ridgeland and Canton Tourism. The organization is an innovative industry partnership committed to collaborative development initiatives that establish the region as a compelling tourism destination.

“Rising tides lift all ships,” Thigpen said. “The Capital Area Tourism Association will be a vehicle to bring more business to the Capital Area. It will fill more hotel rooms, restaurant seats, attractions, tradeshows, and flea markets, festivals and sporting events. It will better position this region as a regional and national competitive destination.”

Visit Ridgeland Executive Director Chris Chapman said, “The time is here and now in the capital area for promoting tourism through our unique cultural, historical and outdoor assets. We all work together for the same goal. It’s wonderful to put all our talents and minds together for the purpose of tourism.”

Today’s press conference comes on the heels of a challenging year for tourism, a year the capital area and the state of Mississippi fared better than the national average.

Mississippi lost 19% of tourism business compared to Hawaii, which noted a nearly 70% decline. Closer to home, it was revealed, area visitors contributed over $618,000,000 of economic impact to the capital area.

Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee noted that continued success. “We’re looking forward to seeing that the rest of the year will hold events that will welcome tourists to our city and metro area.”

Tourism is the 4th largest employment sector in Mississippi, accounting for jobs in restaurant, hotel and other related businesses. The importance of collaboration has not gone unnoticed with city leaders like Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

“I believe we are better positioned going forward,” Mayor Lumumba said. “We are developing a collective strategy in how tourism and our focus and funding are creating a sense of place. This is an important factor in how we build our economy in the city of Jackson, and now, we can do this together.”

Hederman and Dillard, Miss Hospitality Ridgeland and Jackson

Visit Jackson also introduced their 2021 Miss Jackson Hospitality, MaKayla Dillard, alongside Visit Ridgeland’s Miss Hospitality, Sara Hederman.

Dillard is the daughter of Tom Dillard III and Amy Hedgepeth Dillard and is majoring in political science & broadcast communications at Hinds Community College.

Alongside Dillard, 7-year-old Brecken Barrett was named Jackson’s Little Miss Hospitality. Barrett is a first-grader at Rouse Elementary and is the daughter of Chris and Tori Rice and Ben and Amber Barrett.

Additionally, Visit Jackson noted upcoming plans for a job fair and workforce training initiative, a partnership with Jackson Public Schools for community service opportunities and a relaunch of their monthly welcome center Spotlight Series. This week, Visit Jackson will also highlight small businesses and recognize industry employees through social media and digital partnerships, and give back with a community service event on Friday.

The 38th annual NTTW, taking place May 2-8, recognizes the “power of travel” and the critical role our industry will play in bringing back our vibrant communities, restoring the economy, rebuilding our workforce and reconnecting America.

Watch the full press conference on YouTube.