The Ridgeland Tourism Commission has named Savannah Tirey as its new director of marketing and public relations. Tirey previously served as director of communications for the Mississippi Energy Institute and, later, as a public relations specialist at Mississippi Development Authority. She recently spoke with Sun Staff Reporter Nikki Rowell about the work of the Ridgeland Tourism Commission and what that looks like in the wake of a pandemic.
When did you begin working with Ridgeland Tourism?
“I just started three weeks ago, so I’m pretty new on the job. My start date was August 17, so I’m coming up on one month.”
What does your new role entail?
“Just basically all marketing initiatives for Visit Ridgeland. So, it’s really just getting Ridgeland’s story out there to recruit visitors, but also making locals aware of what we do and how tourism affects the city of Ridgeland and how it really is such a contributor to the local economy. It’s a great destination. It needs to be marketed by telling the story of Ridgeland and bringing awareness locally as well.”
What do you hope to accomplish through this work?
“I really hope to accomplish a higher visitation, of course. Just making sure our numbers are always going up, and that our impact is always increasing, that our restaurants are seeing more diners, that our hotels are seeing more reservations and really just making everyone aware.
Our tagline is ‘Inside and Out,’ which speaks to the idiom of beauty being inside and out, and I think Ridgeland is such a great representation of that because you have your inside amenities, like your dining, your restaurants, your shopping. But also your outside amenities are so rich as well with the Natchez Trace and the reservoir.
So, my hope is that we can continue to just really sell Ridgeland and get more people to see what we are all about.”
Can you tell me how the city’s tourism industry has been impacted by coronavirus?
“I can’t speak too much to it, as I have only been here for three weeks, but I do know it is really affecting the tourism industry as a whole because it is affecting the hospitality industry so much. But I do think we are doing everything, from a destination perspective, to make visitors feel safe.
You know, I’m really proud to see how the restaurants and hotels and attractions are all taking steps to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and everyone feels safe.
Ridgeland is really taking strides in that area to address COVID-19 as a reality and making sure we are doing the best we can to still welcome people, but to welcome them safely and responsibly.”
What has been Ridgeland Tourism’s role in aiding local businesses at this time? I noticed you guys are keeping an ongoing list of resources and updates on your website. Could you tell me more about that?
“We have our COVID-19 travel advisory page that kind of breaks down how we are open for business and how restaurants, hotels and attractions are taking precautions. But really we are working with them through social media, through blog posts.
We are trying to put a lot of content out there talking about what they are doing and, more importantly, that they are open for business. So, really, it is an awareness effort that we are trying to do through our social media channels, through our website and through our digital and print advertising.”
How have Ridgeland businesses adapted during this time to meet the needs of consumers safely?
“”I know, for us, we have really tried to market the messaging of visit Ridgeland responsibly. It is a hashtag that we are using on every advertising and marketing page we have. But really, it’s just trying to create that awareness that we are open for business, but we are safe to visit. We have ordered masks with Visit Ridgeland on them, as we are trying to encourage the safety of visitors and locals.
It’s really all about responsible travel and responsibly welcoming travelers to our destination. So, we’re doing the best we can to work with our businesses and make sure they have everything that they need to ensure that our visitors and locals alike feel safe.”
Do you have any suggestions or tips for things to do safely while coronavirus is still a concern?
“Ridgeland is so fortunate to have such great outdoor recreation. With the Barnett Reservoir and with the Natchez Trace, we really are rich in outdoor resources. We offer a lot for families, for couples and even just yourself, such as cycling on our trails. We have so many multi-use trails that are open for you to get fresh air, which is so vital right now, and to safely distance from others.
You can cycle here. You can jog. You can walk. You can bring picnics out to the reservoir. You can go fishing. Really, the possibilities are endless when it comes to outdoor recreation. We have so many great parks here, like Freedom Ridge, that are welcoming and you can space out and find things to do.
We also have many restaurants with al fresco options, where you can eat on patios. It’s really all about the open-air concept, and we are an open-air destination.”
What has it been like starting a new job, especially one with such a focus on people and communication, all while social distancing and dealing with coronavirus?
“It has been interesting. I definitely had to hit the ground running, just because we don’t want to get lost in the messaging. Visit Ridgeland has built its brand for so long, that you want to continue that and continue to have your messaging out there. However, especially at the beginning of coronavirus, you couldn’t encourage travel. You couldn’t encourage large groups. We still really can’t.
But, we can maintain a presence out there. With my job, it really is getting the content out there about how to safely explore Ridgeland with outdoor recreation and open-air dining, open-air shopping. Or just getting back to business in a safe way.
You can enjoy all of our amenities now. Just make sure you have your mask and you’re in small groups and you’re distancing. It’s all about adapting to this COVID world we are living in right now.”
What are you looking forward to post-coronavirus?
“I’m looking forward to my first Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival. I’ve attended as a guest before, but to actually be on the Visit Ridgeland staff and to take part in that event will be really exciting. That’s just a huge spring event for Ridgeland, and I hope we are able to go full steam ahead with that. That would be my first foray into a large, all-encompassing Ridgeland event that features everything that is great about this destination.”