Nungesser: State sees hike in tourism

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Executive Director of the Kinder Chamber of Commerce Barbara Savant discuss local issues Wednesday during a meeting in Kinder. Nungesser gave local business leaders and elected officials an update on the state of tourism in Louisiana and the impact the growing tourism industry has had on the state.

Doris MaricleJefferson Davis Parish Reporter

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser

Doris MaricleJefferson Davis Parish Reporter

KINDER — Louisiana saw its largest increase ever in tourism last year, according to Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

The state saw a 9 percent increase in the number of visitors, welcoming an impressive 51.3 million visitors in 2018, Nungesser told members of the Kinder Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

“It’s the incredible way we treat visitors from all over the world,” he said. “Nowhere else in the world do people come back with stories like they do in Louisiana. We treat strangers like they are family, and they leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling and they keep coming back and talking about it.”

Visitors to the state spent $18.8 billion in 2018, a 7 percent increase over the previous year, and left behind $1.9 million in taxes, he said.

Tourism has created 6,700 new jobs in the last three years with a total of 237,000 jobs supported by the hospitality and tourism industry, including 100,000 hotel rooms with new hotels going up all acres the state, he said.

“That’s because we are doing things we’ve never did before in the tourism industry,” he said.

The state’s new tourism brand, “Feed Your Soul,” has helped attract many of those visitors through social media posts and advertising campaigns promoting the food, music, history, culture and outdoor experiences of Louisiana.

“We can use those social medias and we can track which ones work where,” he said, noting that more people than ever before are coming to fish in lakes, rivers and costal Louisiana as a result of those posts.

Nungesser said he is working to create a fiveyear tourism infrastructure package to include improvements needed in the tourism industry statewide, including lighted roads to get people off the interstate and improvements to arenas to allow them to host bigger and better events.

“We’re excited about getting those projects for every community,” he said. “It’s a win-win and will improve tourism.”

The state recently unveiled its newest tourism campaign, “Lights Cameras Louisiana,” which highlights where many movies and television shows have been filmed in the state.

“We did a study last year and it showed 5 million people a year were influenced to come to Louisiana by a movie or TV show,” he said.

He is also encouraging film companies to leave artifacts behind from the film projects for people to see.

Nungesser is also working to boost Louisiana tourism among international visitors. He recently traveled to China to promote the state.

More than 200 million Chinese visitors are expected to travel to the United States next year. Nungesser said he is hoping to draw many of those visitors to Louisiana to see our attractions, enjoy our food, shop and spend money.