Brandy Evans | Special to BIZ. Magazine
The year 2020 started with such promise. Momentum was building in the meetings market and bids were being pitched to host conferences like the Society of American Travel Writers which would have shined a spotlight on Shreveport-Bossier with a proliferation of positive articles and social media posts from attending travel writers about the community’s amazing attractions, food, casinos, outdoor recreation, and more.
The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission hosted sporting events like the 2020 Showtime Boxing Match in January and LHSAA State High School Wrestling State Championships in February.
Mardi Gras was successful both parade weekends. Thousands of visitors came from near and far. The annual Red River Mardi Gras Bash, sponsored by the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, was nearly sold out with group tours, girlfriend groups and motorcycle clubs.
Tourism was great.
Then the world literally ground to a halt mid-March. Everyone was sent home to “flatten the curve” of the novel coronavirus. It is estimated that the tourism industry lost approximately $1 trillion in economic impact and more than 100 million jobs worldwide. This ongoing global crisis continues to devastate one of the world’s largest industries.
Locally, tourism is still reeling from the ruinous effects of shuttered businesses, smaller conventions and ever-changing state mandates. From March to December 2020, 72 meetings and 59 sports events cancelled. Those groups would have spent an estimated $21 million in Shreveport-Bossier.
The good news is that research indicates there is a pent-up demand for regional drive destinations like Shreveport-Bossier. A recent survey by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America found that 62% of vacationers are planning a road trip, a 72% increase from last summer. 79% plan to travel more than 100 miles from home, while 54% will go more than 400 miles from home, and nearly half of all respondents said that vacations will be in groups of three or more.
“We are so pleased to see tourism rebounding, locally,” said Stacy Brown, president of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. “Our travel indicators such as website visits, blog readership, requests for visitor guides and inquiries were all up significantly for the month of March, as well as hotel bookings that we track through Expedia.”
Local event planners are roaring back with events, too. The Shreveport-Bossier Fun Guide, an online community events calendar, has about two dozen events listed for the month of May. Some upcoming new events include: Chalk is Cheap, a family fun day and chalk challenge during Be a Fan Week (May 1-9), will be held May 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in East Bank District.
“As restrictions are lifted, we have more leniency in putting more people in the East Bank Plaza by utilizing outdoor spaces,” said Robin Jones, executive director for the Bossier Arts Council and event organizer. “People are feeling more comfortable to get out and about.”
Some of the community’s popular events are coming back, too. May 8-9, the Defenders of Liberty Air & Space Show returns. This event will be held at the Barksdale Air Force Base. The popular Mudbug Madness Festival returns, May 28-30, at Festival Plaza.
For a complete list of spring and summer events, visit www.SBFunGuide.com.