/National Geographic website guides tourists down the Mississippi River

National Geographic website guides tourists down the Mississippi River

National Geographic and regional tourism agencies have teamed up to create an online guide that highlights places that are connected to the river’s culture and heritage and is committed to protecting its environment. Wednesday’s Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative Annual meeting in Natchez saw the unveiling of the Mississippi River Geotourism MapGuide. The meeting was attended by about 100 people. National Geographic has 20 websites that feature geotourism. This is tourism that highlights the unique character of a particular region such as its heritage, culture and environment. Other guides are focused on the Sierra Nevada and Sedona Verde Valleys, as well as the East Tennessee River Valley. The Mississippi River Guide features over 1,300 points of interest along the Mississippi River. It includes Tunica River Park, Tunica Resorts, Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville, Vicksburg’s Lower Mississippi River Museum, and Natchez’s William Johnson House. Frank Biasi is the director of Digital Development and Geotourism at National Geographic Maps. He said that he and regional agencies aim to increase the number of places it lists to between 3,000 and 4,000 in the next few years. Biasi stated that although there are many websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other resources that offer information about things to do and see in these states and the surrounding areas, National Geographic guides focus on regions not covered by traditional tourism offices. These regions are not geographically or politically defined. Biasi stated that although they fall through the cracks, they are strong and possess their own identity. They are not easily marketable by any organization. These destinations are not as well-known, but they do have an interesting story. For example, the guide does NOT list chain establishments. Sites must also go through a selection process before being listed. National Geographic is the final judge. Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett believes there are huge benefits to promoting local tourist through National Geographic. He considers National Geographic a well-known brand worldwide. Luckett stated that he used to keep his National Geographic magazines for many years. “It carries some clout.” Luckett said that the site helps to spread Mississippi’s name despite Mississippi’s low tourism budget in the past. Spencer Lucker, an agency spokesperson, stated that the Delta Regional Authority is a government agency that works to increase economic opportunities in the Delta region, from Southern Illinois to Louisiana. Lucker stated that the creation of the website was a $477,000 undertaking. The agency spent about $300,000.00 on the website project in 2014. Lucker stated that $177,000 of the remaining funds came from private and philanthropic donors.