The MHNHA covers all of 19 counties and parts of 11 others most in the northeast part of the state. The designated area bordered by
Heritage tourism, Walker explained, "is a strategy in which a site, community or region pursues historic preservation, tourism and economic development by determining interpretive themes, identifying cultural resources tied to the themes, preserving and enhancing the cultural resources and enhancing tourism 'infrastructure.'"
For the Mississippi HIlls NHA, the focus is on Native American heritage, African-American heritage, the Civil War and the arts (music and literature).
By working with communities within the MHNHA and developing a plan together, the region can tap into the interests of heritage tourists who also happen to have deeper pockets.
"Heritage tourists spend about five nights per trip, compared to three nights for other tourists," Walker said. "In addition, they spend about
Heritage tourists spend about
And while manufacturing is the second-largest employment sector in the MHNHA, tourism is among the region's fastest-growing sectors, Walker said. From 2001-2011, overall employment in the region dropped 8.3 percent, while tourism-related jobs -- lodging and food service -- grew by nearly 68 percent.
Walker said the region's tourism market base is "highly dispersed," with only 13 percent of the heritage tourists originating from within the region. International tourists make up 5 percent of the tourists, and up to 30 percent come from other areas of the South.
Music heritage sites and events attract more affluent, international and "big-city" visitors; antebellum home tours attract more regional visitors; and literary heritage sites and events attract more Southerners and students, Walker added.
Festivals and events also have big growth potential, with the audience expected to grow by 1.2 million people.
"Heritage tourism has the potential to become one of the primary sectors for the
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