DRA Invests $300,000 in National Geographic Society Geotourism Alliance to boost tourism

September 19, 2014

DRA Invests $300,000 in National Geographic Society Geotourism Alliance to boost tourism, small business growth

Mississippi River Communities, Businesses to promote culture, history for increased tourism

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Delta Regional Authority (DRA) Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill and Jim Dion of the National Geographic Society joined Shelby Country Mayor Mark Luttrell in Memphis today to announce a $300,000 investment by DRA into a geotourism alliance uniting destinations along the Mississippi River Corridor.

“The Delta region’s music, history, culture, culinary arts, and tourism provide great opportunities for economic growth and expansion for our small businesses,” Chairman Masingill said. “The Delta Regional Authority is proud to partner with a travel powerhouse like National Geographic Society to promote the unique historic and cultural destinations along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River and drive tourism to Delta businesses.”

The Big River Strategic Initiative (BSRI) is leading the partnership effort to join the Mississippi River Corridor with a growing number of destinations nationally that participate in the global tourism program sponsored by the National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations. Geotourism, defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographic character of a place, incorporates the concepts of sustainable tourism by preserving the unspoiled nature of its featured destinations and ecotourism.

“This is an exciting time for our city and the Mississippi River Corridor.” said Charlie McVean, Chairman of the Big River Strategic Initiative. “The National Geographic Society project is going to bring long-overdue attention to one of the world’s greatest natural resources, increase visitation, and generate significant tourism revenue for our region.”

Participating communities will sign a Geotourism Charter confirming their commitment to support geotourism principles, to sustain and enhance the geographical charter of the region, and to include its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. The document specifically emphasizes tourists’ satisfaction, community involvement, land use, conservation of resources, and regular evaluations as key tenets of community expectations.

“The National Geographic Maps Division is pleased to have the opportunity to spotlight the 10-state Mississippi River Corridor and, in doing so, support and sustain it as one of the treasured places on the globe,” said James Dion, Director of Tourism Programs for National Geographic Maps. “The interactive MapGuide will celebrate the Mississippi’s abundant scenic, cultural and historical attributes from the unique vantage point of those who live there.” 

The $300,000 investment will support several key outputs over two years that will promote the region as a clean, safe and unique world-class destination while providing a mechanism for regional destinations and inland attractions to dovetail on the alliance’s outreach. The program plans to target economically challenged small and medium businesses, communities and private organizations that provide services that capture and reflect the environmental, cultural, historical and scenic assets of the Mississippi River.

BRSI expects the program to foster the growth of trails or byways focused on nature, recreation, history, arts, agriculture, and urban and town life. Supporters also hope that the project will act as a catalyst for local participation in tourism planning and growth while educating local residents about the unique natural, cultural historic, and scenic resources in their backyard.

BRSI and their partners are scheduled to begin work in January 2015.

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About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta. Through twelve cycles of federal investment, the Authority is helping to create and retain more than 41,000 jobs and trained nearly 17,000 individuals, while leveraging $2.7 billion in other public and private investment.

About the Big River Strategic Initiative

Big River Strategic Initiative focuses on regional transformation in a globalized marketplace through tourism development, jobs, creation, and education reform.  Current projects include the Big River Crossing, the Mississippi River National Geographic Geotourism Program and the Big River Parkway.

For more information on BRSI please contact Terry Eastin, Executive Director at 479.236.0938 or via email terryeastin@att.net.

Contact: Jana Wood
slucker@dra.gov, 202-434-4842