National Tourism Week – Cajun Coast Highlights

Experience Real Louisiana Adventure on the Cajun Coast

MORGAN CITY, La - National Tourism Awareness Week will be celebrated May 8-12, 2017. Tourism Week is a time to celebrate the ultimate freedom that we have as American’s – Travel. It’s also a time to celebrate the positive that tourism brings to our community and the state of Louisiana.

The Louisiana Office of Tourism recently announced its record breaking tourism year which is a billion-dollar industry for Louisiana and the fourth largest employer for the state. According to the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s recent report, over 46.7 million people visited Louisiana in 2016 – representing a 2.57 percent increase over 2015. From those visitors, over $16.8 billion was generated in both domestic and international visitor spending– a 4.3 percent increase in 2015 creating over $1.04 billion in state tax revenues from tourism activities – including shopping, visiting family and friends and dining. Each of these visitors spent $360 per person during their trip. As a result, over 231,567 people were either directly or indirectly employed in tourism. According to the report, if not for tourism, each household in Louisiana would have to pay $601 in additional taxes to maintain revenues.

“The state couldn’t have released these numbers at a better time – right before the legislative session. Data shows that for every $1.00 that the state spends on tourism, the return is $40 in tax revenue,” said Carrie Stansbury, executive director, Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau. “There are case studies around the country that are cautionary tales about what can happen to a state’s tax revenues when states reduce or eliminate tourism funding – regardless of how spectacular a destination. Colorado is one of those cautionary tales. In 1993, the state legislators cut all their tourism funding. Within one year, they lost $1.4 billion in traveler spending. From 1993 to 1997, tax receipts declined by $134 million and 18 years later, they’ve never recovered their market share,” said Stansbury. “While the state struggles financially and legislators face challenges, it’s important that legislators don’t cut funding for tourism–tourism makes money for the state that helps to fund other necessary services.” 

The Cajun Coast relies on the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s success. It was recently announced that the Lt Governor is launching a program to encourage in state travel. LOT will highlight one destination per month that will receive almost $25,000 worth of advertising-free. “The Cajun Coast/St. Mary Parish was selected for August in part because of the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival,” Stansbury said. “Full page ads, radio, enewletters and digital media will promote St. Mary Parish throughout the month of August. We’re very excited about this opportunity. They are currently promoting Iberia Parish and doing a great job,” stated Stansbury.

“We have a state museum, the Wedell Williams Aviation and Cypress Sawmill Museum (A Louisiana State Museum) that’s pretty cool if you’ve not visited. We have two Main Streets that are part of the Louisiana Main Street program – and another working on certification. We have a state park, Cypremort Point State Park that has great cabins. We are part of the Bayou Teche Scenic Byway program and part of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Program, which is also part of the National Park System and the Atchafalaya Golf Course at Idlewild, a course on the Audubon Golf Trail. These attractions are connected to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. They rely on tourism’s ability to market and promote throughout the US and internationally,” said Stansbury.

“We can also apply for Cooperative Marketing Funds and Competitive Marketing Funds for special events. In 2016, we received $20,000 from the state for cooperative marketing, but were not eligible for the Competitive Grant Funds because we’ve been awarded funds for Eagle Expo the previous three years,” said Stansbury.

Scaling these numbers to a local level, there were $166.8 million in tourism expenditures for SMP, $36.1 million in payroll with approximately 1774 residents employed in tourism– not including Indian casinos and over $7.6 million in local and state sales taxes were generated. “These numbers reflect 2015 – as the state has not received the breakdown for 2016 yet,” stated Stansbury.

In 2016, the Cajun Coast welcome centers in Morgan City and Franklin counseled over 7500 visitors-with 56% of those from Louisiana, 8% from Texas, 2% from California, 2% from Mississippi, 2% from Florida and 1% from Illinois. The remaining 29% were an amalgamation of the other 44 states in addition to international travelers. International visitors hailed from Canada, France, Germany and Mexico with 39% representing myriad countries such as Spain Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Holland, and Sweden. “These numbers will be down significantly in 2017 due to the closure of the building during the upgrading of the levee system around the welcome center.” said Stansbury.

Other benchmarks for the Cajun Coast include 23,137 inquiries that were fulfilled; hosting over 30 recreational vehicle rallies at Lake End Park and Kemper Williams Park that represent over 1554 people and 777 units.

The Cajun Coast website continues to be active with over 64,756 visits, 61,977 unique visitors and over 119,479 pageviews for 2016. Of those visiting the website, 21% originated from Dallas, 21% from Morgan City, 20% from Houston, and 10% from Lafayette. Other cities with significant visitation to the website included New Orleans, Patterson, Baton Rouge, Houma, New Iberia and Franklin. “With the platform that we use for our website, we have the ability to update as many times as needed and do so almost daily. Updating the website regularly and adding content allows the website to remain high in search engines in an organic way – without spending tons of money on search engine optimization.” “We’ve also included a category for locals so that we can list specific events/activities that will interest locals all in one location,” said Stansbury. “In addition,” said Stansbury, “locals can register to receive our enewsletter. This is a great option for communicating at a nominal cost to the bureau.”

The Cajun Coast’s social media platforms continue to grow. Benchmarks include over 5352 followers on Facebook, 837 followers on Twitter, and 711 followers on Instagram. “The larger our audiences are on social media, the more we can share all the great activities and events that are happening on the Cajun Coast. Desktops and mobile phones continue to increase in usage while tablets are remaining flat,” said Stansbury.

The Cajun Coast assisted and/or hosted over 13 events generating 2600 room nights with an estimated economic impact of $1,239,974.46. Events included the Dixie Youth – 10 & 12-year-old tournaments, Louisiana Bass Federation, Cajun Coast Classic Horseshoe Tournament, Bassmaster Central Open, Xplosion Baseball and more. “We had some great partners that bid on events and helped to make sure these events were successful. Hotels, private citizens, city and parish employees, restaurants, gas stations, city and parish leaders – everyone involved played a vital role. We’re hoping to continue this success,” said Stansbury. “We’ve put in bids to host some Louisiana High School Athletic Association events, the Louisiana Bed & Breakfast Association in Franklin, some fishing events and some small meeting markets.” “If your family hosts a family reunion, if you have a hobby that keeps you traveling, if you participant in a unique sport – let us know. If you belong to an association that travels throughout the state or your company hosts events – let us know. We’d love to help you host something in St. Mary Parish and you would be helping your community,” said Stansbury.

On the marketing and publicity front, the Cajun Coast hosted over 13 writers, made over 26 media contacts, attended the Southeast Outdoor Press Association’s annual conference and placed ads in over 50 publications reaching millions of consumers. Over $252,039.70 of publicity was generated with stories or mentions in Acadiana Profile “The Middle of Here,” Leisure Group Travel, “8 Inspiring Seafood Festivals,” Legends “Louisiana’s Shrimp & Petroleum Festival Celebrating Livelihood and Community since 1936;” and Louisiana Life “Magic in Morgan City – Rita Mae’s Kitchen.” “We’re waiting on an article in National Geographic Traveler. We’re eager to hear about the writer’s experience. She visited during the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival last year and we’ve been contacted. The writer is originally from Morgan City but lives in New York,” said Stansbury.

While the state’s overall numbers are up, St Mary Parish’s tourism dollars have declined due to the slowing of the oil and gas industry and the associated business travelers. In response to this, the Cajun Coast is partnering with Tico Soto of Tourism Tactics by Tico, a 20-year veteran of sales in the hospitality industry – having worked with the Lake Charles CVB, the New Orleans CVB and several private tourism companies. “We’re asking Tico to visit, evaluate our inventory, evaluate what we’re currently doing regarding sales, recommendations for streamlining, setting goals, and making recommendations for trade shows, group business, international sales, small meeting markets, sports, leisure travel, family and friends and other potential business,” said Stansbury. “It’s a tall order – but we’ll see what we can do as we move forward in 2017-2018.” Upcoming events for the parish including the remaining concerts for Rhythms on the River, Battle of the Basin drag boat racing in June, Bayou BBQ Bash, Franklin Main Street Art Walk in August, the Harvest Moon Fest in Franklin and Patterson Main Street celebration in October, the Chitimacha POW WOW in October, the Berwick Lighthouse Festival in October, Tour du Teche in Charenton, Franklin and Berwick and Christmas activities. “There are literally dozens of events and activities that locals can participate on any given weekend in St. Mary Parish. Finding time to attend everything is the real challenge,” said Stansbury. We’re also hopeful the state’s additional marketing and advertising will increase the number of visitors to the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival. “The festival has had some bad luck in recent years. Last year there was historic flooding in our primary target markets – Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Denham Springs; we’ve experienced some terrible rainstorms during the fest, and sponsorships and memberships were down due to the decline in the oil and gas industry. Add in the increasing cost of goods and services and you have an event that needs some good luck for a change” said Stansbury. We also need to pray for beautiful weather. That would go a long way!” said Stansbury. “We want to fill up every hotel room in St. Mary Parish if possible during this year’s event. Invite your family & friends!”

“It's important, also, that the community supports our local businesses. We’d like to challenge the community to shop, eat or utilize services in St. Mary Parish and support the businesses that are that support us when we ask for donations,” said Stansbury.

Finally, we’re brainstorming and evaluating previous economic development plans to see if there is anything there for us to explore.

“Yes, we’re concerned about the future. We hate to see one restaurant close. We hate to see empty buildings or empty hotel rooms. We hate to see historic homes in Franklin for sale. But, I tell our team – there are many things we can control and many things we can’t control. We can’t control the price of oil. Control what you can control. Do the best job you can do every day – stay positive, think positive, let’s make our community the best it can be and promote everything that makes St. Mary Parish a great destination to visit.” We’d love to communicate with you. Visit www.cajuncoast.com - sign up for our enewsletter. Also, join us on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Tag #cajuncoast. For more information, contact Carrie Stansbury, 985-380-8224.

Aside: The Lt. Governor’s office has two initiatives that locals can participate. One is to join the Bayou Krewe and share your love of Louisiana. www.louisianatravel.com/social-hub

Now seeking ambassadors! We're looking for people who are passionate about Louisiana and are active on social media to help us show the world why they should come visit Sportsman's Paradise. Do you love Louisiana? Become a member of our Bayou Krewe and share your passion for our food, history, culture and great outdoors. Come and see it, taste it, experience it; snap your view of Louisiana and spread the joie de vivre with the hashtag #OnlyLouisiana. Sign up below to get official program details and take part in monthly challenges for a chance to win #OnlyLouisiana prizes.

The second initiative is the Reel Louisiana Video Contest with prize money valued at over $20,000.

Louisiana is a state so rich in cultural heritage, so replete with distinguished circumstance, we’re able to use #OnlyLouisiana as our official tourism hashtag.

Sure, we claim the tallest capitol building (450 feet!) and the longest continuous bridge over water (Lake Pontchartrain Causeway - almost 24 miles long) and Louisiana is known for our outstanding food, our joie de vivre, our powerful musical culture and our resilience. Of course we boast bayous that leave you breathless and lay claim to the most enchanting topography and terrain.

We’re asking filmmakers to show us in 90 seconds or less the kind of magic #OnlyLouisiana holds. Three submissions allowed per filmmaker.

SUBMISSIONS DUE BY Jul 31, 2017 at 12:00pm MDT (America/Denver)

VOTING OPENS Aug 01, 2017 at 12:00pm MDT (America/Denver)

VOTING CLOSES Aug 08, 2017 at 12:00pm MDT (America/Denver)

WINNERS ANNOUNCED Aug 14, 2017 at 12:00pm MDT (America/Denver)

ENTRY FEE $0

JURY AWARDS: 10 Jury Selections: Move To Finals 

AUDIENCE AWARDS: 10 Audience Vote: Move to Finals

FINAL JURY AWARDS
1st Place Jury Award: $8,000
2nd Place Jury Award: $3,000
3rd Place Jury Award: $2,000

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