Nungesser gives update on state tourism efforts, results
Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser was the guest speaker for the Minden Lunch Bunch Friday at the American Legion Memorial Home. He updated those in attendance on new developments in the state’s tourism industry.
The Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, which funds things from libraries to state parks, has faced the same budget cuts that have afflicted most other areas of state government. From 2008 to 2017, the tourism budget has shrunk by over $67 million.
In light of these shortfalls, Nungesser said we must “think outside the box” and implement creative ways to increase tourism other than simply running advertisements with taxpayer money. He highlighted several ways this is already happening and asked attendees to join the effort to promote Louisiana.
“This past year was a fifth record year, and it’s only going to get better, he said. “But it’s also going to begin to get really good for all of Louisiana, not just New Orleans.”
Nungesser mentioned several ways he is attempting to spread the wealth of tourism beyond the cultural hub that is New Orleans. Four new tourism jobs have been created in Baton Rouge, including a social media specialist and a group tour person to draw attention to other areas of Louisiana.
“The biggest reason I believe we’ll be successful is those two direct international flights into New Orleans,” he said. “They stay longer and spend more money. They go see three or four more states. We’re working on a marketing plan before they even land to get them beyond New Orleans to see all the great things all around Louisiana.”
This plan includes building a booth in the New Orleans convention center designed to promote every beautiful part of Louisiana outside of New Orleans.
Two other targets for increased tourism are trails and the movie industry. In the past year the state has added five new official trails and byways, bringing the total to 17.
“We’re working on a movie trail,” Nungesser said. “People love where movies were shot and where people were shot, like Bonnie and Clyde. Natchitoches still does a tremendous amount of business with people coming for Steel Magnolias. We want to make sure we capture all those movie sights and get more movies shot around our state. Our legislature has made it where if you shoot a movie out of New Orleans, you get an extra five percent tax credit.”
Nungesser told the story of how he convinced the Dick Clark team to begin doing a Rocking in the New Year show in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve after the ball drops in New York.
“When 30-40 million people are watching New York and they keep cutting to New Orleans, and all those people are thinking about where they’re gong to go on vacation this year, they see Louisiana,” he said. “This year we had a cutaway to Shreveport, and we’re going to add more footage in there for other areas of the state in the future. Those are the kinds of ideas we’re looking for – ways to get more bang for our buck with our tourism dollars.”
Nungesser shared several other ideas along the same vein of roundabout tourism marketing, such as Wrestle Mania in New Orleans this year and Seafood Promotion Board events such as the Pardoning of the Crawfish by the Seafood King or Queen.
“We took a crawfish out of the Atchafalaya basin, drove it to New Orleans, pardoned it, and let it go in a state park while the rest of its family got boiled alive,” he said.
Bass trails, horse circuits and private partnerships were just a few of the other things Nungesser highlighted. Later, he turned his attention to how citizens might help in the cause of promoting Louisiana. The main way to do this is through the Ambassador program utilizing social media.
“I need your help,” Nungesser said. “I don’t have the money to talk about every neat thing to do in this state. But you can snap a picture, post it with #onlyLouisiana, and sign up online to officially join the Bayou Krewe. This is working. Four thousand people went to see the Gothic jail in DeRidder because they posted it with #onlyLouisiana. It helps drive people to the smaller communities around the state.”
People can sign up for the Ambassador program at onlylouisiana.com. Louisiana residents are encouraged to tag their best photos of neat places and experiences across the state with #onlyLouisiana on social media such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.