Melissa’s Musings: Tourism vital to Louisiana

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003


Lt. Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Louisiana’s senators and representatives brought home bucks to promote an economic boom in Louisiana.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Blanco presented St. John the Baptist Parish with a check in the amount of $7,500 at a luncheon held at Belle Terre Country Club, LaPlace. The grant money will be used to fund Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial celebrations in the parish.

While the funds will pave the way for parish events in March, May, July, September and October, it is the cause, rather than the loot, that has Louisiana residents excited. The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial celebrations, held in every parish state-wide, are not only aimed at educating and entertaining, they are the bait for national and international tourists.

The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial is an opportunity to promote one of Louisiana’s most lucrative businesses – tourism. Tourism was booming in 2000. The state took in a record high of $8.7 billion dollars. But just one year later, in 2001, that number fell between $200 and $300 million dollars.

The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 took a toll, not only on our security, but also our pocketbooks. Stocks dropped, setting the climate for a tumultuous year on the stock market. Business fought hard to survive the disaster. More than a year later, airlines are still struggling to survive.

Less money and more fear kept travelers at home. Even those with enough money saved for a vacation were not willing to risk their lives to travel by plane or by boat – not with the image of fire and smoke billowing from the twin towers fresh in their minds.

Realizing this, Louisiana marketers stepped up to the challenge, deciding to promote Louisiana hard, but in a slightly different way. An aggressive campaign started, promoting Louisiana to residents of nearby states. The “drive-in” campaign brought some tourism dollars into the state. As a result, Blanco said, the final numbers for 2002 will show Louisiana tourism up to almost $9 billion.

But why stop there?

Let’s admit it, New Orleans’ economy is dependent upon tourism. French Quarter artists and musicians, cruise ships and Bourbon Street attract national and international tourists – and survive on the tourist dollar. Just outside of New Orleans, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes, while more dependent on industry than tourism, also reap the benefits of the tourist industry.

We are in the heart of Plantation Country. Our local plantations, while preserving the history of the state, are also profitable. In just one year, plantations like Laura Plantation in St. James Parish play host to almost 200,000 people.

We have a unique history, a unique heritage capable of drawing visitors from the city to our doorsteps. Sugar cane, plantation homes, the Mississippi River, swamps and a blending of German, French, Spanish and Creole traditions and cultures makes us the perfect vacation locale for visitors interested in the history and heritage of Louisiana.

More tourists spending money at local tourist attractions, restaurants and stores means more sales tax money for the parish.

That’s why our Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial celebrations are so important, even outside of Louisiana’s largest cities.

MELISSA PEACOCK is a staff reporter at L’Observateur. She may be contacted at (985) 652-9545.