The Coahoma County Tourism Commission Board launched the new year by hearing and approving a variety of tourism promotion and financial reports.
The board began by approving the minutes of the previous meeting and the agenda for the day. That was followed by review and approval of financial reports, including but not limited to the numbers for the previous month of December.
As of the last day of 2021, the available funds totaled $167,408.81. The board also reviewed and approved a reconciliation report and documents showing outstanding checks.
Several promotional efforts, some during the previous weeks and others upcoming, were then presented to the board by Bubba O’Keefe, Executive Director, Coahoma County Tourism.
Travel and Bus Tours
O’Keefe reported on a successful series of meetings at a marketplace event in Dallas. Those meetings included 12 different companies that operate tour buses. Those meetings are important, O’Keefe explained, because the tour bus companies decide which cities and sites to include in their tours. Two of the better meetings involved a group from Chicago that specializes in family reunion tours. One of the operators was born in Clarksdale.
Bandwagon, LLC, based in New Orleans, is undertaking a familiarization trip to Clarksdale. Nicknamed FAM trips, these allow influencers in the travel and media industries to develop knowledge and confidence in a destination. Travel agents, tour operators and travel media personnel are some of the more common FAM trip visitors.
O’Keefe also presented a proposal for the board to become a co-sponsor of an undertaking to raise awareness and promote local tourism on large social media platforms. The event will be led by Rory Doyle, an internationally awarded photographer and native of the Mississippi Delta.
Doyle will lead a group of highly acclaimed photographers on a three-day tour of the Mississippi River, conducted by John Ruskey of the Quapaw Canoe Company. The event is scheduled for the same week as the Juke Joint Festival. The participating photographers have extensive social media followings, and will promote Clarksdale and Coahoma County on social media.
The Doyle group isn’t the only group of photographers traveling to Clarksdale during the week of the Juke Joint Festival.
The board reviewed and approved a proposal to become a co-sponsor of their trip as well.
“We’ve drawn photographers from all over the world to Clarksdale for decades,” O’Keefe said while describing the success of connecting with photography groups.
Participation in Mississippi Tourism Legislative Day, scheduled for the 2nd of March, was approved by the board as well.
Live From Clarksdale
Participation in two social media-broadcasted shows was reviewed and approved by the board. “Live From Clarksdale,” two live posts per week, has been sponsored by the board since the early days of the global pandemic.
O’Keefe recommended that the board continue that sponsorship at least through May, when he and the board could jointly review the success in light of the pandemic at that time. Live From Clarksdale has over 7,000 social media followers. The board also approved sponsorship of “Blues Trail Revisited,” which airs twice each month.
The International Media Market, scheduled for the 24th through the 28th January in New York, was discussed and approved for O’Keefe’s participation. Another event approved for participation was the Southeast Tourism Society Marketplace, scheduled for Feb. 13-17 in Virginia Beach.
O’Keefe presented an update on the previously approved sponsorship of the performances and symposium of the Clarksdale blues legends at Florida Gulf Coast University. That trip also includes the sponsorship of the Kingfish and Charlie Musselwhite performances in nearby Key West.
According to statistics from a variety of sources, 2022 promises to become an excellent year, carrying the potential for a full restoration to pre-pandemic levels or higher. The fiscal year, beginning in October of 2020 and going through the end of September, 2021, showed a recovery of almost $30,000 in sales taxes from the previous year. To produce that level of sales tax, a much larger gross increase in spending brought revenues far on the journey to levels before the pandemic arrived. The sales tax revenues from fiscal year 2019 were $410,596.14, followed by a decrease in fiscal year 2020 to $368,551. The 2021 rebound year brought the amount back to $396,257.91.
“Even with the Covid recovery and the cancellation of the King Biscuit Festival, it was still a good year,” added Roger Stolle, chairman of the board.