Things are looking up for the tourism industry in Meridian. Most recent numbers show that for the last quarter of last year revenues for tourism in Meridian and Lauderdale County at large were up by 8%. Tourism officials say construction of a major plant in a neighboring county is responsible for much of the increase. However, efforts are being made to continue this momentum for years to come.
Right now, business is booming at the Hilton Garden Inn in Meridian.
"We're seeing a lot of business with tourism. We're seeing activities with the corporate travelers, with an influx from Mississippi Power and the power plant that's going up right now. So, we're real excited about the business trends for this year," says Steve Anderson, who is the general manager for the Hilton Garden Inn.
All 133 rooms at the Hilton are filled or nearly filled Monday through Thursday; much of that is due to corporate business traffic. As for the weekends, the general manager says traffic is also up, with numbers higher than they were for this same time last year.
With much of the spike in traffic for local hotels related to the increase in workers and visitors to the Kemper County coal plant site, officials with the Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Commission are making efforts to keep business booming even after the construction ends. To do this, the agency is initiating a new branding campaign.
"The campaign emphasizes 'rhythm and rails!" says Dede Mogollon, who is the executive director for the Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Commission. "Where in a town this size do you find (live) music 7 nights a week, and on some nights its in seven different venues. We're seeing increase in hotel bed tax revenues and we get to utilize those funds to help with this branding campaign. So, once the major construction of Kemper County is over, we will have put out that image so everywhere it will be known."
Aside from spotlighting this areas music and rich rail history, the new campaign also encourages people to 'Meet in Meridian,' for things such as conferences and reunions. Also, there are efforts to bring a little bit of Hollywood here!
"We've got the potential for a television show to be filmed here in a couple of weeks," says Mogollon. "We'll know a little bit more about that in the future and hopefully, I can tell you a little bit more."