The local tourism market has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but is seeing slow gains returning towards normalcy.
Stacy Brown, president of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, joined Bossier Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lisa Johnson for the digital Chamber Chat to talk about the visitor and gaming markets in early June.
Brown admitted the “tremendous negative impact” on the hospitality industry and how that will hurt the local economy.
Brown revealed that $97M in taxes is paid by visitors, saying, “That’s money you and I don’t have to pay because our visitors pay it for us.”
She also noted that the industry employs 13,000 people, many of whom were laid off and furloughed.
As of late May, Brown said roughly 100 events, meetings, and tours have been postponed, to a $33M negative economic impact.
“We have a long way to come back. And, it’s not going to come back on its own,” Brown said.
However, she noted that things have been slowly improving, with local people staying in area hotels.
“Let’s face it, we’re all tired of staying in our homes. Now it’s time to get out and about. Some people aren’t ready to leave, so what better time to see what we have to offer here at home?”
Brown revealed that Expedia is used to drive overnight visitation to the Shreveport-Bossier community. Those future bookings numbers show May and June are really down compared to the same time in 2019. Says July and August are big upticks, and September and October look better than 2019
“As long as things progress nicely, we’ll see some increases coming back to our community,” Brown said.
Phase 2 and its 50% occupancy has been a huge positive for casinos. She said that one of the biggest things in the area’s favor is that it provides great service.
“People have a great time when they come to Shreveport-Bossier. We have one of the highest repeat gaming rates,” Brown said.
She also admitted that competition from the Indian casinos in Oklahoma have negatively influenced the Shreveport-Bossier gaming market and that taxation must be examined in order to improve it moving forward.
“Many people don’t realize how heavily taxed our local casinos are. You’ll see a lot of billboards along I-20 for Oklahoma casinos and that taxation makes it much more difficult to advertise outside the market. The Convention and Tourist Bureau is the main avenue for advertising outside the market,” Brown said. “It’s going to be important to work together to see how we make this a more competitive and friendly environment for our casinos.”
She added that the opensafesbc.com website is “tremendous” for showing visitors the area is helping open local businesses safely, and keeping employees and visitors safe.
“Visitors want to see you cleaning and know what your procedures are. Putting out there what you’re doing in cleaning and safety measures for your staff is information they want to see,”
People have to be invited back, so getting our information out to travelers is paramount. After some research and test marketing, the “Press Play” campaign was developed and launched at the end of May.
“We have to let people know it’s time to come back to Shreveport-Bossier. Mostly social media, online, and digital media, but you will see more traditional media as it progresses,” Brown said.
— BIZ. Magazine.