Step into the fascinating world of Natchez, a city of captivating contradictions and profound history, as we sit down with Devin Heath, the Executive Director at Visit Natchez. In this illuminating Tourism Academy Business Class episode, we delve into the heart of Natchez's rich past, its complex narrative, and the exciting challenges it presents.
Natchez, a destination of immense historical significance, celebrates its 307th year, each year echoing the tales of a storied past. Devin shares his enthusiasm for navigating the city's history and progression, weaving a narrative that balances its triumphs and struggles. The town boasts a staggering number of pre-Civil War historic homes, a testament to its past, and yet, it was built on the back of slavery, with more millionaires in Natchez before the Civil War than even in NYC. The challenge lies in sharing this intricate story, honoring its grandeur and darker chapters.
Devin introduces us to the remarkable community members, including descendants of enslavers, who stand as staunch supporters of sharing the complete history of Natchez – from the enslaved individuals who built the homes to those who fought for the Union. With a background rooted in diverse communities, Devin's journey mirrors the city's complexity.
As Natchez thrives with a blend of 60% black and 40% white population, Devin enlightens us about the city's Native American history, which predates European arrival by 1100 years. Stewardship takes center stage as the city embraces its heritage as a story and a living, evolving narrative that resonates with visitors and locals alike. Devin emphasizes the importance of understanding life throughout Natchez's history, a shared knowledge that fosters connection.
Discover Devin's transformative journey from hotel sales to the world of DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations), where he was enchanted by the opportunities to shape the narrative of a place. His mentors, from Jack Berry's work-life balance wisdom to Al Hutchinson's strategic vision, have shaped his leadership philosophy. His anecdotes, such as bridging cultures and languages to help a guest in need, exemplify the power of compassion and collaboration.
Join us as Devin reveals his aspirations for Natchez, where visitors can find more than they expect – from cultural heritage to warm hospitality. As the city evolves, its stories of old seamlessly translate to a welcoming and embracing community, shattering preconceptions. The episode wraps up with Devin's excitement about the industry's trajectory and thought leadership, though not without a reflective reminder to cherish life's moments beyond the screen.
To learn more about Natchez and its incredible journey, visit visitnatchez.org or email Devin. Prepare to be inspired by Natchez's past and present, where stories intertwine and history lives on in every corner.