River Parishes Tourist Commission shines spotlight on local attractions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2022

LAPLACE — The River Parishes Tourist Commission is the destination marketing and management organization for St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes.

“In 1999, our legislators decided that the three parishes together here in the River Parishes needed to be one tourist commission,” Executive Director Jay Robichaux said. “Every parish has a tourist commission. We are the only one that represents three parishes.”

Robichaux oversees the day-to-day operations from personnel to finances to politics.

“The way that I like to describe it is that I have four professionals working for me that know tourism, that know how to get visitors here in the River Parishes,” Robichaux said. “My job is to get the red tape out of the way to let them do the job.”

Willma Harvey, director of sales and business development, handles marketing and promoting Louisiana’s River Parishes as a premier leisure, meetings, recreational, sports and movie destination.

“A primary goal of the River Parishes Tourist Commission is to ensure our local communities, in addition to visitors, enjoy the abundance of unique and exciting experiences Louisiana’s River Parishes has to offer,” Harvey said.

The tourist commission is funded through a hotel-motel tax generated from all short-stay visitors to the River Parishes.

“It’s hotel-motel, campgrounds, Airbnb. Any visitor who comes and stays overnight or a couple of nights, I get a 4% tax from them,” Robichaux said. “I do get some grants from the state that help, but my day-to-day operations come from the hotel-motel tax.”

With this funding, the tourist commission is able to promote all of the attractions and events that the River Parishes have to offer.

“When the local community is knowledgeable about our swamp tours, airboat tours, kayaking, museums, plantations, restaurants, hotels, boutiques, festivals, performance venues, and other exciting activities and adventures, they become vital ambassadors to the destination,” Harvey said.

Robichaux started his work with the River Parishes Tourist Commission on June 1, 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused difficulty for the tourism industry as events were cancelled or switched to virtual streaming.

According to Robichaux, the addition of virtual events and tours has ended up being an unexpected asset.

“Our visitors are doing more research and seeing what to do online, doing a lot more prep-work, then going to see a venue,” Robichaux said. “I think it’s a greater experience people are getting now.”

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen and festival season starts, the tourist commission is continuing to promote the many attractions in the River Parishes to visitors, including seven plantation homes, swamp tours, ziplining, fairs and festivals.

There are also some new attractions in the works that will be open in the near future.

“We’re working on getting a cruiseline to stop in St. James Parish,” Robichaux said. “We’re pretty much there. It looks like it’s going to happen.”

The cruiseline has been in the works for six years, and will be open five days a week once the preparation is complete.

The River Parishes Tourist Commission strives to provide marketing for any business, venue or event that takes place in St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes to draw in visitors.

“We are here to market any type of hospitality industry in the River Parishes,” said Robichaux. “We are the marketing arm for the River Parishes. That’s why we’re here.”

In order to stay up to date with events and attractions being offered in the River Parishes, visit the Louisiana’s River Parishes website, https://lariverparishes.com/.