Local Tourism Could Be Banner Year

Meridian and Lauderdale County say they are on track for a record breaking year for tourism. Early numbers show that crowds for the Jimmie Rodgers Festival this past weekend were the event's largest in seven years. With numerous other activities set for this summer, tourism officials are optimistic about what's to come.

'We have had amazing growth, both from a tourism perspective and economic development stand point,' says Dede Mogollon, who is the executive director for the Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau. "We're exceeding all of the other communities in Mississippi and we're performing anywhere from 15% to 20% over last year's occupancy levels. It's a great time to be in Meridian."

According to Mogollon, hotels in Meridian are already booked solid for several weekends this summer. At least part of the high occupancy rate so far this year is being attributed to reservations that were made by people working at the coal plant site in Kemper County.

Meanwhile, the news for local tourism is expected to get even better. For the weekend of the opening ceremony for the State Games of Mississippi, all hotels in Meridian are already booked.

Aside from the State Games of Mississippi, large crowds are also expected for the Juneteenth celebration next month in downtown Meridian and for the city's annual July 4th celebration.

Combined, tourism officials say these events could lead to a significant increase in local tourism revenues.

"Just sketching out with a pencil, it could have a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of tax revenue impacted this year," says Mogollon. "That's how significant all of this demand has been for all of these events. So, it's very exciting!"

Over the past year, the amount of revenue generated by tourism in Lauderdale County has been increasing. In the last quarter of last year there was almost a 10% jump. In all, roughly $15,000 more was collected during that time compared to the last quarter of 2011.