Evans: Local tourism industry perseveres in pandemic

This year has been a roller coaster for Shreveport-Bossier’s tourism industry. It started on a high with Mardi Gras, and by mid-March tourism ground to a near halt. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, meeting venues, and retailers had to close their doors to comply with the stay-at-home mandate to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Those efforts helped and by early June, the Shreveport-Bossier community was able to open its doors and welcome visitors back. 

To date, Shreveport-Bossier’s tourism industry has recorded lost business of 121 meetings, events, and sporting competitions. That represents $27.6 million in direct economic impact to the community that has hurt people’s livelihoods. Locally, in April the leisure and hospitality workforce saw a loss of 5,808 jobs or 44.5% of the industry’s hardworking people.

As things pick up fortunately people are getting back to work, which will help usher in a stronger recovery of Shreveport-Bossier’s overall economy.

Hotel occupancy is a key performance metric that the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau monitors to gage the economic impact of tourism. It is slowly rebounding because of a pent up demand for travel, particularly in regional drive markets.

One of Shreveport-Bossier’s strengths is its proximity to 33 million people in a 300-mile radius. The most populous area is Dallas, which is the number one feeder market.

These markets are responding well to the Tourist Bureau’s “Press Play in Shreveport-Bossier” marketing campaign designed to combat COVID-19’s adverse effect on the local tourism industry. The marketing campaign utilizes a mix of social media, search engine marketing, digital advertising, targeted e-mail marketing campaigns, television, public relations, and a strong partnership with Expedia to generate hotel bookings. 

The promotion focuses on all the things that adults and families with children can do to play – gaming at casinos, fun at local attractions, outdoor experiences on the Boom or Bust Byway and area lakes, and the diverse culinary scene.

The conventions and sports markets have been more challenged. Phase 3 will allow for larger indoor gatherings, so aggressive efforts to rebook groups are underway.

On the sports side, the Tourist Bureau is focused on hosting more outdoor events where there is the potential for greater social distancing and safety precautions. 2021 is shaping up to be a huge year for the local sports market, perhaps one of the best ones in the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission’s 9-year history. 

It’s a long road ahead to complete recovery. However, the perseverance that tourism industry partners have shown and their grit and determination to keep the industry alive has energized the team at the Tourist Bureau.

To further support partners, the Tourist Bureau offers many resources such as marketing grants, free listings on the tourism website at www.Shreveport-Bossier.org, free event listings and promotion on www.SBFunGuide.com, news release distribution, brochure distribution, plus many more services.

To learn more about all there is to see and do and to “Press Play” on a new day, visit www.Shreveport-Bossier.org.

Brandy Evans | Vice President of Communications, Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau