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Tourism thrives in Webster Parish, boosting local economy

by Amber McDown

Tourism in Webster Parish has experienced a significant upswing since the easing of COVID restrictions, according to the annual report released by Webster Parish Tourism for the year 2022. Visitor spending witnessed a notable increase, with expenditures soaring by 11%. This surge translated into a 10% rise in state tax revenues and a 13% uptick in local tax revenues, directly impacting residents by trimming individual tax payments by $207.

In 2022, visitor spending in Webster Parish approached nearly $30 million, generating $1.15 million in local taxes. While comprehensive data for 2023 is pending, initial indicators suggest a continuation of the upward trend.

Apart from the traditional annual festivals in Minden, the growth is attributed to various factors, including the exposure garnered through HGTV’s Hometown Kickstart and Camp Minden securing a 10-year contract to host the Archery Shooter Association Pro/AM tournaments.

The surge in short-term rentals, such as bed and breakfasts, has been particularly noticeable. Sara McDaniel, owner of Simply Southern Cottage, has witnessed a surge in bookings across her properties, drawing guests from across the United States and internationally. McDaniel’s properties not only contribute to local accommodations but also drive spending in restaurants, souvenir shops, and local stores. “They’re eating at our restaurants, they’re shopping downtown, and I fully expect to see that continue to grow.”

“2023 has been a good year for short-term rentals in Minden,” McDaniel stated. “My bookings have steadily increased month over month at all my properties.” With her company projected to contribute approximately $30,000 in state and local taxes, McDaniel anticipates further growth in 2024.

Similarly, Jim and Kim Huffman of Huffman Management reported growth in 2023, with an average daily rate surge of 18% and a 6% increase in occupancy. The international reach of Huffman Management’s website underscores the global interest in Minden as a travel destination. Buoyed by their success, the Huffmans are expanding their portfolio with two additional houses earmarked for renovation as short-term rentals.

Serena Gray, executive director of Webster Parish Tourism, expressed optimism about the future, emphasizing collaborative efforts to attract more visitors to the area and foster economic growth across the community. “We are filled with anticipation for where we are headed and believe that, as we continue to work together, we will attract more visitors to our area resulting in economic growth for our entire community.”

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