LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -The local tourism industry took a big hit thanks to the pandemic and hurricanes. We took a look at what it will take to get tourists back as well as the role hotels are currently playing.
“When Hurricane Laura hit, it just devastated our community and changed the face of what we need to do over the next 6 months to a year.”
In a year filled with the unexpected, Southwest Louisiana remains an attraction however not for the usual prospects.
“Our visitor now is not the leisure visitor looking for a place to game or taste culinary treats. They’re here working and helping us rebuild.”
Kyle Edmiston who serves as President & CEO of the SWLA Convention & Visitor Bureau says the widespread damage on top of the pandemic can be felt in the latest tourism numbers.
“Tourism in 2019 was a little over 800 million dollars. Right now for 2020, it’s expected to be 200 million dollars,” Edmiston said.
A deficit of 600 million dollars that over time will show up on the books of local restaurants, shops, and hotels. He says the future of tourism in the Lake Area is ultimately dependent on the pandemic and how well the area recovers from the hurricanes.
“For us, we have to have availability in hotels. We’ve lost about 50% of available rooms...the other 50 percent are filled with people who are helping us.”
He says right now the focus for his team remains on inventory.
“My ask to the community would be if you’re a business owner or retail store owner and are reopening or have certain hours that you’re available. Communicate that to us. We use social media, digital media, our website...
and spreading a message of resiliency to neighboring states.
“We will be better, back and stronger, but in the meantime, we’re not there yet. We wanted to put something out that they could visually see and hear from citizens about that process. The video really speaks to the strong-will nature of people in SWLA and their ability to rebuild,” said Edmiston.
While the cleanup continues in a challenging year, Southwest Louisiana remains open for business.
Visit Lake Charles launched its Community of Resilience video to amplify the spirit of the people and rebuilding of Southwest Louisiana. The purpose of the campaign is to gain awareness for Southwest Louisiana’s challenges and spread the message of rebuilding to focus on inviting visitation once the area is rebuilt stronger and better.
The video includes actual footage from Hurricane Laura as well as interviews from Mayor Nic Hunter of Lake Charles, Kyle Edmiston (President/CEO of Visit Lake Charles), Frankie Randazzo (Panorama Music House), Amber Jay (Crying Eagle Brewery), Chef Lyle Broussard (Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill), and Sam Wilkinson (First Federal Bank and Creole Nature Trail Board Member) at various locations across Southwest Louisiana.
“The most helpful thing that anyone can do is help spread the word that Lake Charles has challenges right now. The more people who understand what the needs are, the faster our communities can get back on their feet through working with local agencies like the United Way or the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana,” said Mayor Nic Hunter of the City of Lake Charles.
Everyone is encouraged to share the video from the Visit Lake Charles social media channels along with the message of resiliency by using the hashtag #RebuildSWLA.
For more information about the destination’s business openings and general information, log onto www.VisitLakeCharles.org/rebuildswla.