The best way to sell Oxford to tourists is to show it off, with the city’s walking tour, or by a driving tour on a Double-Decker bus or now the latest craze in getting around, taking a pedi-cab.
The newest tour, a joint effort between Visit Oxford and Rebel Rickshaw, lets tourists sit back and enjoy a serene carriage ride behind a bike. The tour audio, a recording of historian Jack Mayfield’s local stories, will be piped in through blue-tooth speakers in each pedi-cab from a recording on the driver’s smart phone.
Mayfield is the real, live historian for the hour-long Double-Decker Bus Tours that are popular with tourists and parents of future university freshmen.
Two different hour-long pedi-cab tours are available, a historical tour of homes on South and North Lamar Boulevard, and a campus tour on the grounds of the University of Mississippi. For adventurous listeners who want to stretch their legs, the company offers extended tours. The first hour is spent in the pedi-cab, with a 30 minute walking tour afterwards. The cost for adults is $15 and for children under age 12 is $7.
“It’s a unique way to see Oxford,” said Nason Williams, owner of Rebel Rickshaw. The Rebel Rickshaw tours begin April 19.
Oxford is a tourist destination, in the eyes of both visitors and major national magazines and newspapers, including the likes of Garden & Gun, Southern Living and the New York Times, to name just a few.
Visit Oxford, the re-envisioned brand for the town Convention & Visitors Bureau, has changed with the times as part of its effort to bring in more revenue for the city and show more people why Oxford is so special.
“We are the sales and marketing department for the city,” said Kinney Ferris, assistant director at Visit Oxford.
A few things are certain for the future of the visitor’s center. Visit Oxford will be in its present location just off the Square, at 415 South Lamar Blvd., for at least two more years. It will continue adding signs around town, so visitors will have certain direction on how to reach their preferred destinations, whether it’s the oft-cited Rowan Oak or one of town’s lesser-known but equally interesting historical homes.
The state Department of Transportation will place signs at exits for both Highway 6 and 7, to direct visitors toward popular tourist sites in town. And signs on South Lamar and University Avenue will direct people to the Visit Oxford office.
Visit Oxford wants added signage around town, including on Old Taylor Road directing motorists to Rowan Oak, according to Ferris.
The tour groups and signs that town residents see around town are just a fraction of Visit Oxford’s daily efforts. The visitor’s center is also here to tell more people out there about why Oxford is such a special place they should visit time and again.
Ferris said that the group is outspent by other tourism bureaus in advertising, and part of its push is to bring in more funds for food and beverage sales for the city, because part of that tax funds the group. Much of the advertising spend for Oxford goes toward the regional drive market to boost visits: people from cities such as Nashville, New Orleans, Little Rock, Birmingham and Atlanta.
For local travel, Oxford is positioned a little off the beaten path means the visitor’s center has to try a little harder to get visitors to veer in the town’s direction. Accolades such as the Memphis Commercial-Appeal’s readers voting for Oxford as the Best Day Trip go a long way to help.
The area also hosts its share of intercontinental guests. Nearly 50 of the visitors who stopped in at the visitor’s center in a 10-month period were international, coming from such exotic places as Dubai, Norway and Monte Carlo. Europeans, unlike Americans, still book travel using travel books and Visit Oxford advertises through them to reach the international market.
With help from the state, Visit Oxford also has healthy relationships with a number of international travel writers. For instance, this month a French journalist will be in town to share all that the town has to offer.
Gretchen Stone is HottyToddy.com associate editor. Gretchen can be contacted about this story at Gretchen.Stone@HottyToddy.com
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