Tourism industry looking for ways to bounce back after taking huge hit during pandemic

Tourism industry encouraging people to take a 'staycation' to give city a boost

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On Wednesday, May 13, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser announced most state parks will reopen Friday, May 15 for Louisiana residents.

The tourism industry across the state and in Baton Rouge is taking a huge hit right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As summer approaches in downtown Baton Rouge, the mighty Mississippi is of course still flowing, however, the streets are much quieter than most would like.

“Have you ever seen something like coronavirus impact Baton Rouge? “ questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhé.

“No, nothing even close,” said Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge.

Arrigo says COVID-19 has been more devastating for tourism in the Red Stick than he could’ve ever imagined.

“And you can’t put a figure on that. All that I can tell you is that hotel revenue is down tremendously,” said Arrigo.

The hotel occupancy in the city is running at about 30%, which is half of what it would normally be at this time of the year, he says.

“People who go to hotels have to go to restaurants, sometimes they go to attractions, sometimes they go to the casinos, sometimes they go to retail, or all four. So anytime the hotels are down, you’ve got four sectors down,” said Arrigo.

Visit Baton Rouge is starting to promote “staycations” for locals to rediscover their home city and visit places like the city’s museums and of course the capitol building; state parks are also opening up Friday, May 15.

“State parks will only be able to be enjoyed by Louisiana residents, so we have a lot of cancellations and a lot of room for Louisianians to make a reservation to stay at a state park,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser during a press conference held Wednesday.

Arrigo says Visit Baton Rouge is following all the guidelines laid out by elected officials, and they hope this all will end soon.

In the fall, the LSU football season could potentially offset some of the losses, which will be felt for a while.

“We recognize that international travel is going to be down. It's going to be a while before conferences and conventions come back. We're looking at a three to five year recovery to bring things back to where they were as an industry,” said Arrigo.

Lt. Governor Nungesser says if Louisiana residents book three nights at a state park, they’ll receive a fourth night free by using the special promo code: Welcome Back. For more info on state parks reopening, click here.

On Wednesday, Visit Baton Rouge’s marketing team held a meeting with hospitality partners in the city in order to discuss steps for moving forward.

Below are some statistics and losses specific to Baton Rouge provided by Visit Baton Rouge:


Loss impact from March 16 to June 20:

  • Riverboat stops: 57
  • Estimated passenger count: 10,577
  • Estimated economic impact lost: $1,637,923.08

Meetings/Conventions & Group Tours

  • Over 140 groups (tours and conventions) and over 21,000 room nights lost, which would have generated an estimated $18,000,000 in economic impact

Tourism Research

According to a Visitor Profile Research Study (2018) and research conducted by the Louisiana Office of Tourism defining what visitors spend by parish (2018), here are some of the highlighted stats:

  • Hospitality industry employs just over 13,000 people
  • Visitors to the Baton Rouge area spend an average of $920 million annually

Annual visitation numbers for 2018 were 11.3 million:

  • 4.1 million people spent the night
  • 7.2 million people came for a day trip

Top reasons visitors choose to visit are:

  • Connect with family and friends
  • Attend marketable events (events they saw through advertisements/marketing efforts)

Top 5 feeder states for visitors are:

  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • Mississippi
  • Florida
  • Georgia

Visitors broken down by season:

  • January through March: 24%
  • April through June: 27%
  • July through September: 24%
  • October through December: 25%

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