Dardenne discusses tourism, Louisiana at Rotary

CROWLEY – Speaking with pride and excitement for his state, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne discussed with the Rotary Club of Crowley Tuesday his office’s plans to continue to promote and brand Louisiana.

“Not unlike most of you, I’m in love with Louisiana,” he said. “I’m in love with the opportunities our state has and what we can do to communicate the many great things about Louisiana that we sometimes take for granted, to others outside the state.”

Dardenne and his staff have focused that love on the tourism industry since he assumed the office of Lieutenant Governor on promoting the state to its residents in the state, the country and internationally as well. The office has also tried to tie education into a lot of its projects, such as when the state celebrated its bicentennial, pointing to its importance.

The travel industry has not only grown in importance in Louisiana but across the country as it has now become the leading performer in the U.S. economy. In fact, travel to America is up 7.7 percent from last year, Dardenne explained.

Louisiana’s cultural diversity has contributed to that and with a trip to Canada scheduled for next week, Dardenne hopes to grow the sector of international travel to Louisiana and continue the state’s bridge to that country.

For Louisiana, that means not only promoting the state’s beauty but also the many great things in the state that its people are passionate about. In turn, the state’s brand under Dardenne’s office has become “Louisiana: Pick Your Passion.”

Those passions are seemingly limitless in Louisiana, looking at the music, the food, the unique history of the state and specific areas in the state, festivals and much more.

“We want to share [those passions] with anyone who comes to visit our state, and tourism is the way that happens,” said Dardenne.

Louisiana’s travel industry continues to grow as well. Last year, the state saw almost 26 million people visit. Those visitors, Dardenne explained, spent more money — almost $26 million — during their visit, leaving behind tax revenue for Louisiana.

“Jobs are dependent upon and are created by the tourism industry, which is big business for Louisiana,” he said. “I want to make sure people understand that this is a business and it is well worth investing in a business that is returning those kind of dividends.

“For every dollar we spend on bringing people to Louisiana, we’re going to get $17 back. That’s a pretty good return on investment by any banker’s standards.”

That first starts with promoting the Louisiana brand and getting others to visit the state and in turn give the state accolades, which the state continues to receive from many national publications.

Dardenne also spoke about the importance of wildlife tourism and the seafood industries and festivals. Pointing to those as well as other sites, like the newly opened physical Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame housed in Natchitoches, Dardenne urged all to be a “tourist in your own state.”

He explained that you can also use his office’s website — www.louisianatravel.com — to get more information about the many things to do and see in Louisiana. A tool many outside of the state are using.

Dardenne closed his discussion by pointing to a survey two years ago that named Louisiana the happiest state in the country.

“Despite the political turmoil we face, the lists that we are on the bottom of that we want to be on the top of, the ravages of Mother Nature, the problems we have faced in the Gulf, we are the happiest people in America,” he said. “Just think what’s going to happen when we get it right — and, we will get it right.”

In a brief questions and answers session, Dardenne did field a question about a potential run for the office of Louisiana Governor.

“I know the rules about politics and Rotary,” the former member of the Baton Rouge Rotary Club said with a smile. “But, I will answer that carefully to say my expectations are to be running for one other office that would simply erase one of the words that is now in my title.”

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