LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR Billy Nungesser addresses a crowd Friday at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center as part of National Travel and Tourism Week last week. (Sentinel photo by Joey Martin)


"Staycation" and "Feed Your Soul" were common terms heard Friday at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center as part of National Travel and Tourism Week last week.

Lieutenant Gov. Billy Nungesser, responding to a question by Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft, said "Staycation" was a term he heard from another individual, but it has been well received.

"’Staycation’ is working," Nungesser said. "Go see any part of Louisiana you haven't seen and you won't be disappointed."

Nungesser showed four videos promoting Louisiana tourism.

He also talked about the new brand slogan the state is using -- "Feed Your Soul."

Nungesser said keeping museums is important to the state and that he can see the day when tax money will not be needed for state parks.

The state welcomed 51.3 million visitors in 2018, representing an increase of nine percent over the 47.1 million visitors reported by DK Shifflet in April 2017, Nungesser said.

Visitors spent $18.8 billion, an increase of seven percent over 2017. The travel and tourism industry generated $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2018. Tax revenue generated through travel and tourism spending saves each household in Louisiana $1,082 a year in taxes that would be needed to maintain current services.

"We’ve seen a continued growth over the past three years of hotel accommodations, attractions, and tourism jobs all across the Louisiana. This growth has enabled us to continue successfully increasing our visitation numbers to reach 51.3 million,” said Nungesser. “By promoting Louisiana as a place where you can Feed Your Soul, we can attract more visitors, which means more tax revenue we can generate. Through continuing to prioritize efforts to promote Louisiana and with the ongoing support of our partners across the state, we can continue this success.”

Investing in tourism to promote and market Louisiana leads to thousands of direct and indirect jobs for the state, according to the lieutenant governor. At the end of 2018, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows 237,200 jobs were the result of visitor spending in Louisiana, an increase of 2,600 new tourism-related jobs over 2017. A total of 6,700 new tourism-related jobs have been added in Louisiana since 2016.

Craft said a number of cruise boats are docking in Vidalia and the town is talking to other riverboats about doing the same. He said a number of major fishing tournaments are held in the area.

"The future of tourism in Vidalia is continuing to grow and we want to promote the quality of life here in Concordia Parish,” he said.

Lynette Tanner of Frogmore Cotton Gin said she has had to add employees to handle the number of tourists who visit the Frogmore Cotton Gin to view old and new cotton methods.

Tanner also praised Nungesser for promoting Louisiana tourism around the world.

"Believe me, he doesn't take a break," Turner said. "He's working the entire time."

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