Webster Parish has been put on the map in the last year, and Director of the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau (WPCVB) Lynn Dorsey is excited about the possibilities.
With nearly 10 travel publications and magazines featuring Webster Parish from Minden to Springhill, Dorsey said the advertising has paid off.
“We have ongoing relationships with the publishers, and I pushed to get them to include editorials as often as possible to go along with our ads,” she said. “That is one of the main ways we have been so successful in getting editorials over the past couple of years. It’s grown and grown.
“Also, our participation in media tours, which includes travel writers, (has) been very successful in getting publications to include stories about Webster Parish,” she continued.
Webster Parish has been included in publications that include: Louisiana Road Trips, In Magazine, Northwest Louisiana Travel Host, AAA Southern Traveler, The Forum, Louisiana Life Magazine and Louisiana Film and Video.
WPCVB has accomplished much over the last year. In Dorsey’s report to the WPCVB Commission, she says the bureau partnered with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau to develop a brochure about the Northwest Louisiana Film Trail, which was featured in local media upon completion.
“In July, 5,000 of the Northwest Louisiana Film Trail brochures were distributed to 69 official visitors’ centers around the state through a program with (Louisiana Travel Promotion Association),” she says in her report.
At the end of August, the Louisiana Office of Tourism shipped 1,000 of the NLFT brochures to the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada “in appreciation of our participation in the lieutenant governor’s sales mission in February to support our future international marketing for 2015.”
However, with so much promotion of Webster Parish, it’s the grass root efforts of the volunteers and event coordinators that are the backbone of the success Webster Parish currently enjoys, Dorsey said.
“Our bureau does not organize events,” she said. “Our job is to assist those who work so hard (to) put on our events. Our job is to help promote them any way we possibly can through radio ads, publications and tours. Without our event coordinators and nonprofits that organize events, we would be very limited in what we could promote annually.
“We’ve developed some products besides events, but it’s our events that have gotten us where we are today,” she continued, “and we appreciate the people who work so hard and all the volunteers that make them possible throughout our parish.”
Johnnye Kennon, administrative assistant for WPCVB, said the bureau has disbursed $749,436.67 in grant funds over the years to various nonprofit organizations, primarily for events. This year, Dorsey said $34,600 has been granted to various organizations.
Kennon said all organizations that have applied for grants from the tourism bureau are in compliance.
“All organizations are in compliance to date with the rules and regulations of the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau,” she said. “That’s really good.”
WPCVB’s main income comes from a dedicated state sales tax (hotel rooms), a local motel/hotel occupancy tax and Cooperative Advertising Program (CAP) rebate, which allowed them to promote Webster Parish on a billboard. WPCVB will not get the CAP grant again and is not budgeted for 2015.
Budgeted income for 2014 was $313,000, but the actual amount was $362,500, an increase of $49,500.
Dorsey says it was an unexpected windfall due to the opening of Muddy Bottoms ATV and Recreation Park in Sarepta, and the commission based its income without any windfall, because funds fluctuate from year to year.
The estimated income for 2015 is $330,000.