The economic impact of a steady stream of out-of-town visitors on a town or city is probably no more evident than in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country – Gatlinburg sits just outside the park. As always at this time of year, my husband and I are visitors to the Smokies and most certainly contributing to the local economy.
While we don’t have the draw of the mountains in northwest Louisiana, the arrival of casino gaming in the Shreveport-Bossier City area has helped grow a tourism industry in our part of Louisiana – and generated new revenue source to our economy. Before casinos, however, our rivers and lakes were a draw for water-based events.
That tourism draw is definitely growing through the efforts of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission, a cooperative effort of Shreveport, Bossier City, Caddo Parish and Bossier Parish governments. The commission, a division of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau, was instrumental in the success of the recent Forrest Wood Cup.
At last week’s Bossier City Council meeting, tourism bureau executive director Stacy Brown detailed the economic impact of the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup fishing competition to demonstrate just what an event such as this one means to the Shreveport-Bossier area. Per the tourist bureau records, total attendance for the August 15-18, 2013 competition was 39,303, surveys conducted at the entrance of the Shreveport Convention Center (where the expo was held) reflected that:
Caddo – Bossier Parish attendees accounted for 8,580 of the visitors to the event;
11,193 visitors were from outside Caddo-Bossier Parishes, but within a two hour drive;
19,227 visitors were overnighters staying 2.5 days on average – and traveled more than two hours to the event.
Brown reported that direct impact of visitor spending was $4.8 million for restaurant and bars, retail, lodging and gas. The spending of those visiting for the day was over $800,000. In addition to the 2,215 hotel rooms used by staff, sponsors, anglers, and vendors – an additional 6,678 hotel rooms (outside of those officially blocked for FLW officials and participants) were used by event visitors, for a total of 8,983 total rooms for the four night duration of the competition.
According to Brown, the Forrest Wood Cup’s total direct visitor impact to our area was $5.6 million, and the overall media value of the event was estimated at $1 million.
After the council meeting presentation, Brown discussed the collaborative nature of hosting an event like the Forrest Wood Cup, noting that while Horseshoe Casino Resort wasn’t the only corporate partner in hosting the event – but was certainly a major contributor to the effort. Brown suggested that none of the hosting partners could have managed the scope of the event alone, so it’s important that in addition to the Sports Commission and tourism bureau, private partners are equally important to success of such undertakings.
And the Forrest Wood Cup success brought the Texas State Bass Championship to Shreveport – Bossier City – on very short notice. Drought conditions in Texas forced the bass championship event organizers to look to another locale, and they found it right here with another 1,200 room nights and uncounted meals, shopping, gas stops, etc.
Look for more of these events locally as our hometown offerings are found by national event organizers. An early October Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water District board meeting was the opportunity for interim executive director Robert Berry to list several events the park will host including the National Collegiate Wakeboard Competition, a national archery competition, cross country runs. Berry also noted that discussions are underway to bring the Southern Drag Boat Race, a national event, to Cypress-Black Bayou.
All of that is good news for our potential to grow the local tourism economy. And it’s even more meaningful given one of Brown’s observations that hosting events like these get visitors hooked on our area – and they come back to enjoy it again.
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the Bossier Press-Tribune. She may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org