WARREN COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) –
Tourism equals big business for Warren County, and the City of Vicksburg is the heartbeat that helps make it happen.
Cash, crowds and changing the culture of the county are just a few benefits of tourism in the city.
One of the places that people seem to enjoy is the The Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum.
“This is where Coca Cola was first bottled in the world 1894,” said Vicksburg Foundation of Historic Preservation executive director Nancy Bell.
Located in downtown Vicksburg, tourists frequently stop by to check out the museum that features Coca-Cola memorabilia.
And of course, you can’t walk out with buying an old fashion classic coke floats.
“For us, Coca-Cola is the number one icon,” said Bell. “That’s why people come here.”
This is just one of the unique museums attracting visitors to the area.
Within the past 12 months, Vicksburg tourism officials say they have welcomed more than 20 thousand people to each of the city’s museums.
“Sometimes, we have more people from outside the United States than from inside the United States,” said Bell.
This has helped put the city and Warren County on the map when it comes to a top travel destination spot.
“We have over two million visitors coming to visit our attractions,” said Bell.
Laura Beth Strickland is deputy director of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
She says the paddle-wheel cruises that stop in Vicksburg are also a driving force when it comes to tourism.
“Two or three boats dock weekly and so this is just a great time of the year for them to go out and see all the attractions,” said Strickland. “They go see the Vicksburg National Military Park, visit several of our museums in Vicksburg.”
Casino gaming in the river city also catches the eye of travelers.
“Tourism is the fastest way to grow the economy,” said Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs.
According to Flaggs, travelers flocking to the city are also spending big bucks at the local hotels and restaurants.
Tourists paid nearly $1.8 million in hotel and restaurant taxes last year.
Rusty’s Riverfront Grill is one the eateries that welcomes the overflow from tourism. Claudette Whitlock is the manager of the restaurant.
“It keeps us up to date, money, people traveling, and it keeps us rolling along good and keeps us busy through the summer months,” said Whitlock.
City officials say tourism helps generate income and jobs.
“Twenty percent of Warren County is employed by the tourism industry,” said Strickland.
“The owners make more money the servers make more money,” said Whitfield. “It’s spreading the wealth around.”
With the new Margaritaville Resort just days away from opening in Vicksburg and several small businesses moving to the downtown district, leaders and business owners say the best yet to come for the city.
“I am passionate about Vicksburg not becoming a drive through city, but a destination and that is what we are going,” said Vicksburg Convention Center executive director Annette Kirklin.
“People use to say Vicksburg had all this potential, but everything is on the rise in this town,” said Strickland. “Hopefully, people come and enjoy the ride with us because it is just great.”
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