Local officials and tourism leaders gathered at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center last week to discuss the impact of tourism in Ascension and the state with Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser as part of National Tourism Week. Ascension was one of many stops he made throughout the week.
Tour Ascension Executive Director Tracy Browning shared with Nungesser some of the many attractions the Parish has to offer such as the various plantations and festivals, the historic City of Donaldsonville and the shopping at Tanger Outlet in Gonzales, which offers tax free incentives for international shoppers.
Ascension is comprised of 300 square miles made up of over 121,000 residents from the east and west banks of the Mississippi River. There are currently over 1,600 hotel rooms, with two new hotels under construction, to accommodate the tourists that travel to the Parish.
"The tourism industry has impacted Ascension Parish with over $154 million in tourism expenditures, which generated $19.8 million in state and local taxes and created over 2,190 jobs," Browning said. "If it were not for the state and local taxes paid by the tourists visiting Ascension Parish, each household would have to pay an additional $236 in taxes."
Parish President Kenny Matassa noted that Gonzales' multi-purpose event center, Lamar-Dixon, will have over 300 events this year ranging from music festivals to livestock shows, bringing in thousands of tourists to the area.
"One of our goals under President Matassa was to bring in an extensive world class caliber [to Lamar], bring in things that will get us noticed, not just state wide but regionally, nationally," said Lamar-Dixon General Manager Kyle Rogers. "We have a festival ground that it's foot-print is four acres larger than Jazz Fest."
Sacs Western Store General Manager Joey Templet shared his personal view of the tourism industry, saying how when there are big events at the expo center the store will see an increase of 15 to 20 percent that week, or month, of the event.
"It's been a big asset to us and a big asset to Ascension Parish," he echoed the other speakers.
Nungesser encouraged everyone to sign up to become a #OnlyLouisiana ambassador, where they can become a Bayou Krewe member and share their passion for Louisiana culture, food and great outdoors using the #OnlyLouisiana hashtag on social media. He also discussed how Louisiana is home to seven world-class bass fishing lakes, including the number one bass lake in the country for the past two years.
Lastly, 2016 Miss Gonzales Jambalaya Queen Holly Stelly invited everyone to visit the Jambalaya Festival at the end of the month, one of the state's longest running festivals.