DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - 2015 has been a good year for tourism in Livingston Parish. Despite the $500,000 budget, officials say the parish cleared $50 million with visitor spending.
Eric Edwards is the executive director at the Livingston Parish Convention and Visitor's Bureau. He says a three percent occupancy tax is charged at hotels and RV parks in the parish. They use that money to promote shopping, fairs and festivals.
"Tourists, what do they want to do? They want to shop and eat," said Edwards.
When Bass Pro opened its doors in 2008, the hope was that it would attract new people to the parish. Seven years later, Edwards says, the store is ranked fifth in the company for the amount of people that come through the doors.
The Antique District is also a big attraction in Denham Springs. Edwards says the movie industry and people in search of a unique gift keep the area busy.
Word of mouth seems to be the number one reason for the tourism dollars. The Livingston Parish CVB also makes visits to trade shows to bring in visitors. Edwards says this year, they did three of those in California.
He says they've noticed that things like festivals are attracting more people, as well as the 400 miles of waterway.
That's a reason, he says, they will need more hotels in the future. They'll also need a convention center, Edwards said.
Once they do get visitors to the parish, they have found that people will come back.
"They're coming and buying second homes, they're retiring here," Edwards said.
There are also international travelers that visit. Edwards says French-Settlement and Port Vincent showcase the French-Creole culture. In Albany, the Hungarian settlement is another destination stop.
"Tickfaw State Park, a lot of people don't know that they have cabins to rent. They have a huge fishing lake, you can fish free there."
Edwards says the important thing is to get people to the area, and get them off the interstate to look around.