BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Hotels in downtown Baton Rouge are booked through the weekend.
There are currently five hotels and two more under construction to help accommodate a growing number of visitors. Hotel and tourism leaders have announced a plan aimed at getting visitors to return.
Turn the corner on any street in downtown Baton Rouge and people are bound to see something new. The growth is hard to ignore.
Ben Blackwell, general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites, helped open the hotel on the Mississippi River three years ago. He said business leaders saw a solid return on their investments.
"Our ownership group really saw downtown as a hidden gem and knew what was coming to downtown with the businesses, apartments, and everything else, and we decided to get in early," Blackwell said.
A handful of other well-known hotel chains did too. Since then, the hotels have been host several big events. Everything from Mardi Gras parades, conventions, the Miss USA Pageant, and dozens of races.
Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, said the Capital City has something to offer everyone and people are catching on.
"The number of visitors coming to Baton Rouge exceeds the actual population of Baton Rouge throughout the year," Arrigo said.
The Louisiana Marathon is in its fifth year. This weekend, downtown leaders are expecting more than 9,000 participants representing nearly every state and several foreign countries.
"It is exciting that we have these folks coming to Baton Rouge having a great experience and then going home to their communities and saying wonderful things about their experience here in Baton Rouge," Arrigo said.
The attraction is about to get even bigger. The Baton Rouge River Center and seven downtown hotels recently established an initiative called, Destination Downtown. A variety of hotel packages will offer meeting planners across the country options that allow them to experience even more of what Baton Rouge has to offer.
"They really enjoy the food, the activities in downtown. Visit Baton Rouge and the Downtown Development District have done so much to promote downtown and create so many fun events. It's just a lot of fun," Blackwell said.
Two new hotels, The Watermark and Autograph, on Third Street are set to open in 2017.