SAN ANTONIO — Tourism officials in Louisiana are preparing for a major boost in tourism after Gov.
John Bel Edwards signed a bill Friday to expand the state’s tourism programs to include the country’s second largest city.
The bill also includes a host of new measures to boost tourism, including:New state tourism jobs.
The governor has said the state needs $200 million in new tourism revenue to begin the process of restoring the economy to full employment, which has been the target of the state Legislature.
In a news release, the Louisiana Tourism Department said the legislation will “enhance the competitiveness of the Louisiana tourism industry, attract and retain the best and brightest to the state, and help Louisiana recover from a devastating drought that has crippled the tourism industry.”
The tourism bill is named after Govs.
John Edwards and Bobby Jindal, who are both from Baton Rouge, and is aimed at helping the state attract and keep the best tourists in the state and bring them back.
Edwards has called for a 10 percent increase in tourism revenue for the state by 2020.
“Louisiana has always been a state of dreams, of dreams and of talent, and this bill gives our state a great boost in its effort to create jobs and grow the economy,” Edwards said in a news conference Friday.
“The Louisiana Tourism Council, led by Tourism Commissioner Doreen Houser, will be reviewing the bill to determine whether it is the right move to enhance the competitiveness and growth of the tourism economy in the State.”
Louisiana’s tourism industry has been hit hard by a recent severe drought, with its unemployment rate now at 13 percent.
The state’s economy was hit hard when Hurricane Matthew hit the state last October.
The drought also caused a drop in tourism to Louisiana, which saw the state report a 6.4 percent decline in visitors in November compared to last year.
The tourism sector has been working with the state Department of Tourism to make adjustments, said Chris Niehaus, the president of the Association of Tourism Administrators.
The department is working with its partners in the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and the state Tourism and Convention Bureau to address the issue, he said.
Louisiana Tourism Commissioner Chris Housers’ office says the state has received more than 3.2 million applications for the 2018 season.
“We have received applications from a variety of industries, from tourism, to food, to manufacturing, to entertainment, and the industry is continuing to grow,” Houses office said in the news release.
“We are currently in the process to receive the first applications from the food and beverage industry.”
A host of other changes are also in the works to make Louisiana more appealing to tourists, said Eddy Bevans, president of Destination Louisiana, a tourism group.
New state law.
The state Tourism Department is developing a state law to ensure the state maintains the status quo and provides economic benefits for the tourism community, said Bevens.
“The law would provide a legal framework for the governor to implement the proposed expansion of the number of state-sanctioned state-operated visitor facilities in Louisiana, including a host for state-licensed tours,” the release said.
The legislation will allow the state to expand its tourist programs from three to 12 sites, including three new facilities, which could include new restaurants, lounges, movie theaters, restaurants and cabins, according to the release.
“There are so many opportunities to help our state become more attractive for tourism and to create a more hospitable environment for tourism, and I look forward to working with Gov.
Edwards to implement this important legislation,” Bevins said.
“This will help ensure our state remains the best destination for visitors and that the economy can recover from this historic drought.”