Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Mary Allyn Hedges Talks Tourism, Growth, Love of Oxford

The Vassallo Interviews — Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor who interviews Oxford’s and our region’s leading personalities.

Mary Allyn Hedges,
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP, Director of Visit Oxford

Steve said: “Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP (Traveling Marketing Professional) is the Director of Visit Oxford. Mary Allyn’s offices are in the very middle of the extensive progress and development taking place throughout the city. During the interview I had to move further away from the window as the noise from the construction of “The Chancellor’s House” was powerful.”
HottyToddy.com – Mary Allyn, How long have you held this important position?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – I have been Director of Visit Oxford since February 2014, but have been with the Oxford Tourism Council since 2008, when I started as Tourism Coordinator.
HottyToddy.com – Tell us a little about your background that prepared you for this assignment.
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – I grew up in Greenville and graduated from Ole Miss with a degree in Hospitality Management. I considered going to Alabama, but in the end Ole Miss was right for me. I chose this major because of my enjoyment of being involved with people and my passion for marketing.
HottyToddy.com – What about your family?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – My husband, Stephen, is an Auburn grad, but is now converted into a huge Rebel fan! My mom is originally from Inverness and my dad is from St. Louis, Mo. My mom’s family are all Ole Miss grads (my dad is a graduate of the University of Wyoming, but has also been converted to an Ole Miss fan!).
HottyToddy.com – What all does Visit Oxford do?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – We are the marketing agency for the City of Oxford and our purpose is to bring visitors to Oxford for the economic benefit of the community. Our funding comes from two sources – the two percent Hotel-Motel tax and the Food & Beverage tax. We partner with many organizations in Oxford to market and promote events, festivals and conferences throughout the year. Visit Oxford also puts on the annual Double Decker Arts Festival. The 2014 festival estimated 60,000 individuals attended.
The Hedges
The Hedges

HottyToddy.com – How do you accomplish everything you need to address in the midst of the greatest growth boom in Oxford history?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – We have a full time staff of three. We advertise in our five hour drive market which includes Little Rock, Memphis, Birmingham, New Orleans, Nashville, Jackson and the MS Delta. We also represent Oxford at a number of trade shows and conferences promoting Oxford as a tourist destination to both individual and group travelers. We also participate in lifestyle conferences including the upcoming Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville in September (www.americanamusic.org).
This year, we have partnered with Thacker Mountain Radio to take their show on the road to the Americana Music Festival. We are thrilled about this partnership and think it will be a great way to showcase Oxford and Thacker Mountain Radio!
HottyToddy.com – What are your goals and aspirations for the next 5 years?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – We would like to expand our staff. We do a great deal of partnering with other organizations presently and will continue to do more. We were a partner this year with Ole Miss Athletics and the Ole Miss Alumni Association on the Rebel Road Trip which was a great partnership and they were so to include us on their week-long promotion throughout the state. We will continue to partner with the University and FNC Park in working together on events and planning. We also work very closely with the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce.
HottyToddy.com – Is Oxford growing too fast?
Mary Allyn converted her husband Stephen, an Auburn grad, into an Ole Miss fan! Hotty Toddy, you two!
Mary Allyn converted her husband Stephen, an Auburn grad, into an Ole Miss fan! Hotty Toddy, you two!

Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – It’s great that we are growing, but we need to be able to accommodate the growth we are having through our infrastructure. I’m proud to be with the organization that is promoting the growth of tourism in Oxford as we see our two percent hotel/motel numbers continue to rise as well.
HottyToddy.com – The number of hotels under construction is an indication that many more people want to visit Oxford.
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – Currently we have 600 hotel rooms, but when the four hotels currently being built are completed, we will have almost 1,000 hotel rooms to offer our visitors.
HottyToddy.com – In addition to the hotels, new businesses and housing are literally popping up everywhere.
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – Oxford Commons is a great addition to Oxford as will be Galleria II. There is a lot of growth going on in Oxford as we prepare to accommodate the rise in enrollment at Ole Miss.
HottyToddy.com – How would you describe Oxford to someone who has never had the good fortune to have already found us?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – I always like to associate Oxford with Ole Miss as many people make that connection immediately. We promote the literary heritage of our city as well as the cultural heritage including the historic downtown Square, which is the economic hub of the city.
William Faulkner is a huge attraction along with the University Museum and historic homes and buildings in the city including: L.Q.C. Lamar House, Burns Belfry Church and Cedar Oaks. Our extraordinary dining options have put us on the map as a culinary destination, not only in the South, but in the US as well.
We offer guided driving tours with our local historian, Jack Mayfield on the Double Decker bus, as well as our self guided walking tour that can be picked up at our Visitors Center at 415 South Lamar.
HottyToddy.com – In regards to our location, how does Memphis play into all of this?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – Memphians are able to make a day trip to Oxford in the middle of the week, to catch events like our monthly Oxford Art Crawl on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Memphis is a great place to promote middle of the week, overnight visits.
HottyToddy.com – Is not Texas sending us a great deal of new students and creating more family visits?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – We definitely need to do more in the Texas markets, especially Dallas and Houston. The Texas A&M fans traveled well and contributed significantly to our economy when they played Ole Miss in Oxford the last two years.
Visit Oxford offers historic Double Decker bus tours on Friday before all Ole Miss home football games which is a great way for visiting fans, as well as Ole Miss fans returning to Oxford, to see the City and University.
HottyToddy.com – Does Visit Oxford have a board of directors?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – Yes, Visit Oxford is comprised of seven board members appointed by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen plus a Board of Aldermen represented as an ex-officio on our board.
HottyToddy.com – Returning to your background, your knowledge of this industry is most impressive!
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – I lived in Jackson Hole for two summers while in college and completed my internship one of those summers at Jackson Hole Resort Lodging. I enjoyed my time out there so much that I returned for a year after graduating from Ole Miss and worked for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in their marketing department.
HottyToddy.com – What makes Mary Allyn tick?
Mary Allyn Hedges, TMP – Being around people! I look forward to coming to work every day! Stephen and I love to travel and also enjoy being outside, playing with our dog, Gus and playing tennis.
This young lady is on a mission! Oxford can be proud that someone with her knowledge, experience, passion and drive is promoting it. And to make that scenario even sweeter…she’s a graduate of Ole Miss!!
[dhr]
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communicationssubjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. In addition, he is a certified economic and community developer and currently, a highly successful leader in the real estate business with Premier Properties of Oxford. Steve’s lifelong dream has been to live in Oxford full-time. “I am now living my dream daily as is my wife Rosie, who works with the Oxford Chamber of Commerce,” Steve said. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.