Local tourism efforts honored

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

Shelley Johnson, executive director of the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said Sunday she was excited

and proud about the “record attendance” last week at the 2013 Lt. Governor’s Tourism Summit.

The summit, themed “Louisiana Strong, a Tourism Jam Session,” wrapped up Thursday after a three-day conference in Lake Charles.

More than 400 attended.

Johnson also has another reason to celebrate.

At the summit, the Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was named Bureau of the Year.

“It was a tremendous honor. I have 18

very hard-working individuals who have a passion for what they do,” she

said. “They

pour everything into making projects as successful as they can be.

I have an innovative results-producing staff and it’s great

for other people to think so, too.”

This is the second time the bureau has been recognized by the state.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne delivered the summit’s keynote address, discussing the tourism successes from the past year and talking

about what is to come in 2013.

“Our recent industry numbers show that

tourism in Louisiana is continuing to grow and we expect the 2012 data

to be beyond

the 2004 numbers, the final year of data that was not influenced

by a man-made disaster, an economic crisis or a natural disaster,”

Dardenne said in a news release.

In 2011, Louisiana had a $10.1 billion

industry in Louisiana and tourism is expected to be at $10.5 billion for

2012. The

average daily rate for hotel rooms in Louisiana is now closer to

$103, which is the first time Louisiana’s average was above

$100.

“Louisiana has certainly come back after the storms,” Johnson said. “We have seen an increase in tourism here in Southwest

Louisiana, as well. The state is doing very well.”

For every dollar the Louisiana Office of Tourism puts into their advertising budget, there is a $7 return, she said.

The year also proved to be successful for Louisiana Travel.com and the Louisiana Travel Facebook page with visits to the state’s

tourism website increasing by more than 62 percent. And Louisiana Travel’s Facebook page increased its page likes to more

than 100,000 by the end of the year, which is up from just more than 18,000 in January 2012.

“Social media is the new way to market tourism,” Johnson said. “It’s the future and we’re trying to do the best we can.”

The state’s 2013 marketing campaign

will begin running in February and is centered on music. The print ads

showcase tongue-in-cheek

copy such as “No America, we will not turn that music down” or

“Enjoy some fresh Louisiana jam.”

“The more they are able to advertise, the more they are able to bring more people here,” Johnson said.

Dardenne agrees.

“The ads in this campaign are unlike any we have had before to promote our state. We’re excited to start the campaign in the

spring and as a result, we expect folks to book their music adventure in Louisiana,” he said in a news release.