State offering incentives for conferences, conventions to choose Louisiana to host canceled events
BATON ROUGE - As summer quickly approaches, the streets, sidewalks, and attractions in Downtown Baton Rouge should be filled with locals and out-of-town travelers. However, that's not the case in 2020, due to COVID-19.
"We had about $13 million of direct cancellations that we would have had in the capital area, between March and April, and maybe in the beginning of May," Visit Baton Rouge CEO, Paul Arrigo said.
A lot of that lost revenue comes from conventions, conferences, and sporting tournaments forced to postpone or cancel their events when the state shutdown beginning in late March. Now, as restrictions continue to ease, the focus shifts to getting a lot of those plans back on the calendar.
"It's a difficult process that we're going through," Arrigo said. "There's a lot of groups that we are rebooking for later this year and into next year."
As of now, Arrigo says Visit Baton Rouge is focused on encouraging leisure travel to the area, as well as 'staycations.' When it comes to conferences, conventions, and sporting tournaments, however, the capital area has already rescheduled 16 events for later this year.
Arrigo says some conventions are slated to return in late August. 12 postponements have been rescheduled for 2021, while another has opted to return in 2023.
Arrigo and the entire state aren't only looking at getting the expected business back. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has announced a new program to entice conferences and conventions previously scheduled to take place out of state, to instead choose Louisiana for their event.
"We'll give them Louisiana seafood, prepared by a Louisiana chef, and we'll give them a Louisiana band or musician," Nungesser said at Gov. John Bel Edwards' Wednesday press conference. "We just landed a national trucking conference to Lake Charles. They were going to Miami."
The Louisiana Lagniappe Plan, as it's called, aims to provide those incentives to persuade more traveling groups, and thus more dollars, to reschedule canceled events in Louisiana. Arrigo thinks it will be helping in attracting more business.
"Incentives is part of our business now whether we like it or not," Arrigo said. "I like that he's utilizing Louisiana seafood and Louisiana music. That's even more of the culture that we have."
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