Louisiana takes steps to keep the good times rolling

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Thanks to a host of new attractions and such high-visibility events as FrancoFete, which celebrated Louisiana's French heritage, 1999 was a record-breaking one for the state's visitor industry, according to Barbara Roy, assistant secretary for the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

"We don't have all figures compiled yet, but according to preliminary statistics and projections, in 1999 Louisiana was host to some 26 million visitors who spent $8 billion -- more than in any previous year," said Roy.

The good times will continue to roll for Louisiana, thanks to a number of new facilities and special events.

Starting next January, for instance, a series on jazz by Ken Burns will air on PBS. Burns, who created several award-winning PBS documentaries, including one on the Civil War, has been spending a great deal of time in Louisiana researching for the show, Roy said.

"He found so much more than he expected that the series will be longer than he anticipated," Roy said.

"We're a sponsor of the series, since Louisiana is the birthplace of jazz."

Coincidentally, "The Music of Louisiana" is the theme of a marketing campaign the state launched this year, which will continue for three years, according to Roy.

In addition, the tourism division created a music video, which it is using in its promotions, based on the song "You Are My Sunshine."

In the video, the song, which was written by a former Louisiana governor, Jimmy Davis, is played in six different music styles -- gospel, Cajun, zydeco, jazz, blues and country.

Rather than resting on its laurels, Louisiana's booming visitor industry will continue to promote aggressively, Roy said.

Agents and other professionals attending this year's Pow Wow in Dallas will see a strong Louisiana presence.

"We will have four booths with 12 people from our staff as well as members of the CVBs. And when you include all the hotels, tour operators and attractions, Louisiana will actually be represented with 42 booths," she said.

Roy said the state is looking forward to 2002, when New Orleans will be the host city for Pow Wow.

"New Orleans was the site of Pow Wow in 1993, and Louisiana saw a tremendously positive impact from that exposure," she said.

Next year, another important trade event, the Travel South Showcase, will be held in New Orleans, and meetings have already been held and participating hotels selected, according to Roy.

"We're working with the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau on developing pre- and post-show travel agents' fam trips," Roy said.

"We offer agent fam trips on a regular basis. This month, for instance, we offered A Taste of the South, which took travel agents to different parts of Louisiana," she said.

"We would also like agents who take the Travel Weekly seminars-in-print educational program to follow that up with a visit to Louisiana."

Raising awareness of Louisiana's appeal internationally is a major goal of the tourism division, as well, according to Roy.

"We have offices or representatives in Mexico, Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Brazil and elsewhere," she said.

"We're also always interested in developing new markets. For instance, we have a delegation going to Italy shortly and may open a representative office there, possibly in Milan."

As an added bonus to visitors from abroad, Louisiana offers foreign travelers a break on the 7% state sales tax on items they purchase at participating shopping establishments. All they have to do is show their receipts on departure and they receive a rebate.

Although tourism has been a major success story for the state, there are still some under-visited areas Roy would like agents to tell their clients about.

"The National Creole Nature Trail is in a beautiful location and offers visitors a look at Cajun culture and a variety of wildlife, including alligators," Roy said.

"Northwestern Louisiana is great for clients who love outdoor activities, especially fishing and water sports, and it's convenient for people who fly into Dallas/Fort Worth."

Another suggestion -- this one in south Louisiana -- is the Atchafalaya Basin, which is located between Lafayette and Baton Rouge and is especially recommended for families.

"We plan to build a welcome center [there] with hands-on activities for children and a children's fishing park. We also will develop trails."

Louisiana Office of Tourism
Phone: (800) 756-5806
Web: www.louisianatravel.com

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