Tourism and hospitality professionals get the grand tour

<p class="p1">JENNINGS — A delegation of tourism and hospitality professionals from across the state had the opportunity Tuesday to learn more about what Jeff Davis Parish has to offer.

<p class="p1">The Jeff Davis Parish Tourism Commission and Louisiana Office of Tourism hosted the familiarization tour as part of the lieutenant governor’s annual travel summit meeting this week in Lake Charles.

<p class="p1">“This annual event is the pinnacle of collaboration and exchanging of ideas between our office and all of our hardworking tourism partners that market and promote all things Louisiana,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said in a news release. “This is a very exciting time for me as our state’s tourism industry gets to network and share ideas amongst the who’s who in Louisiana tourism — an industry that brought in 47.1 million tourists and $17.5 billion into our state last year.”

<p class="p1">Jeff Davis Parish Marketing Director Dionne Sablehaus said the group was invited to experience first-hand what Jeff Davis Parish has to offer visitors.

<p class="p1">“We want to show the tourism and hospitality representatives what we have to offer in Jeff Davis Parish so that when people visit their welcome and visitor centers, they can direct them to us,” Sablehaus said.

<p class="p1">The group began the day visiting the Gator Chateau where they held baby alligators and toured construction of the new $664,000 Gator Chateau to house alligators at the Louisiana Oil and Gas Park in Jennings. Also on the group’s itinerary was a tour of the Tupper General Merchandise Museum, Louisiana Telephone Museum, Zigler Art Museum and Bayou Rum distillery.

<p class="p1">They also learned more about the Flyway Byway scenic trail, local flea markets and antique shops, area restaurants, other attractions and sampled local foods.

<p class="p1">Similar groups also toured the Creole Nature Trail and Crying Eagle Brewery as part of separate familiarization tours.

<p class="p1">“This helps us all to learn more about the area and recommend places for visitors to go when they asked what there is to see and do,” Sablehaus said.

<p class="p1">Gina dePingre, sales and service coordinator for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, said she was impressed with the new Gator Chateau under construction.

<p class="p1">“It was nice to see they are building something positive for the area and for tourists to stop and have something to do,” dePingre said.

<p class="p1">Kimberly Faulk, business development director for the Northstar Meeting Group, said she enjoyed visiting the Tupper Museum.

<p class="p1">“It’s amazing in here,” she said. “You can physically see it and photograph it. It’s like a walk down memory lane.”

<p class="p1">Brandy Serrett, supervisor of the Atchafalya Welcome Center, said the museum was like a “time capsule.”

<p class="p1">“It’s phenomenal in here,” Charlie Whinham, public information officer for the Louisiana Office of Tourism, said. “It’s my first time here and it is like walking in a time capsule. I can’t wait to tell more people about this place.”

<p class="p1">Lauren Holmes, assistant regional coordinator at the Louisiana Office of Tourism, said she was not aware of the Tupper Museum or the adjoining Telephone Museum. She is planning to bring her children back.

<p class="p1">Rosie Politz, tourism supervisor at the St. Francisville Welcome Center, said she was aware of the Tupper Museum but had “just never made it out.”

<p class="p1">“I’d seen it in brochures and was always fascinated with the old stuff and would always say ‘God I want to go there.’ she said. “I was happy when I saw it was on the tour.”

<p class="p1">Politz took photos and videos of the museums, which she plans to post on the Welcome Center’s Facebook page to promote the area.

<p class="p1"><strong>‘It’s phenomenal in here. It’s my first time here and it is like walking in a time capsule.’</strong>

<p class="p3"><strong>Charlie Whinham</strong>

<p class="p3">Louisiana Office of Tourism