2021 Annual Report

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| FROM THE PRESIDENT/CEO As the tourism industry

of 67.5% for 2021, 35% higher than 2020 and slightly

steadily moves forward with

higher that the 61% achieved in 2019, which remains

a flurry of announcements of

the baseline for growth. The same trend holds true for

new openings of attractions

average daily rate from $90 in 2020 to $113 for 2021.

and businesses over the

The demand for rooms follows the occupancy numbers

past year, and with the area

with a u-shaped curve from 2019 to 2021. With the

recovering from a variety

rise in occupancy and demand from 2019 to 2021, the

of obstacles, the trajectory

RevPAR (revenue per available room) went from an

remains steadfast with the vision of promise for

average of $50 per available room to an average of $76

Southwest Louisiana. Revisiting 2021, the state of the

in 2021.

tourism industry in Southwest Louisiana is indelibly tied to the events of 2020 from the pandemic and

Despite face-to-face events beginning later in 2021,

the cavalcade of devastating storms that touched

many sporting events were back in full swing during

the southwest corner of the state. The good news is

the first quarter. Southwest Louisiana had several

that healthy conversations are taking place with a

successes hosting tournaments including the LHSAA

myriad of partners from governmental entities to

Girls’ Basketball Semifinals, LHSAA Boys’ Basketball

private business leaders and the public at large to re-

Championships, LHSAA Softball Championships,

imagine the future for Southwest Louisiana. These

LHSAA Baseball Championships, a variety of five New

conversations include quality of life initiatives and

Balance Future Stars Series tournaments, the Jennie

tourism product enhancements that will attract future

Finch World Series, five 2D Sports Showcase events,

visitation in a host of creative ways.

16 USSSA Youth Baseball events, the LHSAA Swim state championships, and the LSU-E/Lake Charles

Considering the rebuilding that many restaurants,

New Year’s Classic Women’s Basketball Tournament.

hotels, retail outlets, and places of business undertook

It was uplifting for everyone in the industry to see the

in 2021, the Visit Lake Charles Welcome Center was

meetings and conventions sector return including the

no exception to the widespread destruction that

Rendezvous South Conference, as well as the World

Southwest Louisiana strived to overcome last year.

LNG & Gas Series: Americas Summit & Exhibition.

We marched right alongside others in Southwest Louisiana in collective efforts to restore brick-and-

While we are swiftly moving through 2022, it is clear

mortar infrastructure for visitors and residents alike.

that everyone in Southwest Louisiana pulled together

Despite recovering from natural disasters and a

and was focused on recovery in 2021. We have come

workforce shortage that largely impacted the tourism

a long way as a destination, and the team at Visit

sector, later in 2021, visitors flocked to the area at the

Lake Charles is poised to promote the array of future

highest rate in history.

offerings that are underway in Southwest Louisiana.

Occupancy rate in Calcasieu Parish reached new alltime highs during 2021. January and February were slower months, but the spring brought leisure travelers back in force with occupancy rates in excess of 75%

Kyle Edmiston, CDME

for several months and an average occupancy rate


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| MISSION To advocate for the tourism industry and promote Lake Charles/SWLA as


a dynamic destination serving our visitors and community.

| VISION A world-class destination where residents and visitors stay and play.

| VALUES We believe in: • IMPASSIONED HOSPITALITY: Our servant attitude ensures that we deliver exceptional experiences to our stakeholders


and our visitors. • STRATEGIC COLLABORATION: We know that—with the right partners—we can accomplish more. • AUTHENTIC KINDNESS: In all our endeavors, we exercise intentional care and compassion.

HOW IS THE LC/SWLA CVB FUNDED? The LC/SWLA CVB is solely funded by a 4% occupancy tax, paid by visitors to the area staying in local accommodations. There is an additional 1% tax that is collected by the CVB of which 95% is dispersed back to the municipality from which the revenue was collected to fund programs that will improve visitation, tourism, economic development or infrastructure. The remaining 5% is dedicated to the Project Enhancement Grant that is available to nonprofit or governmental agencies in Calcasieu Parish with infrastructure projects that enhance visitation or the visitor experience.

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2-4 hours

Source: Near

4-8 hours

8+ hours

8+ hours & observed next day in destination

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Edwina Medearis: 2021 Black Excellence Award

Taylor Stanley & Kathryn Shea Duncan: Leadership SWLA Graduates

Kyle Edmiston: LTA Marion “Butch” Fox Advocacy Award. Edmiston played a vital role in the passage of HB 415 by Representative Gaines. The passage of the TRID legislation will allow tourism boards & commissions to better structure their revenue streams with the assistance of the businesses that are impacted by tourism in their respective parishes.

DRIFT away Tourism Campaign of the Year

Launched new VisitLakeCharles.org website

Afternoons where time is lost. Places where meaning is found.

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter: STS Government Tourism Leadership Award


Rebuilding SWLA Community Coalition: Community Partner of the Year

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USSSA Hall of Honor

Hosted World LNG & Gas Series Americas Summit & Exhibition, the first international conference to be held in SWLA.

Tara Johnson & Kristen Shiver: LA Tourism Leadership Academy Graduates


RESILIENCE RECONNECT REDISCOVER Visit Lake Charles Welcome Center - 2021 Year of Recovery

When the storms of 2020 compromised the roof of the Visit Lake Charles Welcome Center, it allowed wind and rain to wreak havoc on the structure. From the center of the lobby, when looking up, the sky was the only thing in view post storms. To rebuild, the facility had to be stripped down to concrete and studs. Remarkably, Adventure Point withheld the ravages of the storms and was left basically unscathed. The biggest hurdles to recovery were supply and demand of materials and supply chain issues – common themes found throughout Southwest Louisiana. In the interim, staff members relocated to Adventure Point and worked in make-shift spaces including conference rooms and storage areas. The Welcome Center officially reopened in July 2021 with an overhaul on the interior design and décor, but there were also several other changes made in efforts to accommodate more staff and functionality of the building in general. The interior color scheme was changed from warm red and gold hues to cooler tones of white and gray, and additional office space was constructed from areas that were previously used for storage. The other major change that was made is the Gumbeaux Gator store, which was converted into a modular meeting room. The staff at Visit Lake Charles is highly engaged in community activities, and this new meeting room is conducive for the Welcome Center to be used as a hub for creativity and synergy with community partners. The once-prominent gator topiary in the parking area did not survive the storms’ wind and saltwater intrusion and has been replaced by a unique landscape feature, complete with newly planted trees and inviting benches, called the President’s Circle. This space was dedicated last October to the three executive directors who shaped the CVB since its inception – Bernadette Monlezun Ponton (1975-1976); the late Marion “Butch” Fox (19761988); and Shelley Johnson-Hurley (1988-2019).

August 2020

July 2021

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Jonathan Ringo, Visit Lake Charles Board of Directors, Past-Chair World LNG & Gas Series Americas Summit

SALES GOALS & RESULTS 2021 ■ GOAL: Build booked meetings and convention numbers back to 50% of 2019 room nights by the end of calendar year 2021. RESULT: 2019 resulted in 84 meetings and conventions which included 26,322 total room nights while 2021 yielded 40 meetings and conventions that brought in 5,297 total room nights. While Visit Lake Charles was only 2 meetings and conventions short of meeting this goal, room nights were significantly lower due to smaller meeting and convention sizes. This trend was felt not just in Southwest Louisiana but in the nation as many meetings and conventions were limited to a specific number of attendees due to COVID restrictions. Travel restrictions were also a factor. _______ ■ GOAL: Increase the average daily rate (ADR) in Calcasieu Parish by 0.5% at year-end over the 2019 ADR numbers. RESULT: In 2019, the average daily rate (ADR) was $84. 2021 saw tremendous growth as the ADR increased by 35% to $113. This increase was largely due to the rule of supply and demand, with nearly 25% of the hotel inventory offline in 2021 resulting from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. As rebuilding continues, the transition is being made to leisure travelers that are flocking to

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Southwest Louisiana with pent-up demand as a driver. _______ ■ GOAL: Grow the SWLA Hotel Community Facebook Page to 150 active members by the end of the year. RESULT: With many of the hotel partners across Southwest Louisiana recovering from storm damage and the staffing shortage which has impacted the hospitality community across the board, this goal was not met. _______ ■ GOAL: Rebuild booked group business nights from the social, military, education, religious and fraternal (SMERF) market segment by year end to 50% of 2019 room nights. RESULT: Unfortunately, the SMERF market has been one of the slowest markets to rebound post-COVID. Things that have factored into that trend have been the travel regulations at Fort Polk; Mardi Gras was canceled in 2021, so there were no krewe events and celebrations, and many of these types of groups were still hesitant to plan last year. 2022 has already shown a great deal of improvement in this market. _______

Booked 81 meetings, conventions and sporting events that utilized 28,607 ROOM NIGHTS at area hotels

■ GOAL: Achieve a 15% increase in the total room nights booked from 2020 in the Sports Tourism market segment by the close of 2021. RESULT: In 2021, Visit Lake Charles hosted 41 sporting events generating 23,310 total room nights. Only 25 events were held in 2020 utilizing 18,116 room nights, so an increase in room nights of 29% well exceeded the goal of 15%.

Rendezvous South, a conference of meeting planners that can bring future business to SWLA, was held in May.

World LNG & Gas Series Americas Summit

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MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS GOALS & RESULTS 2021 ■ GOAL: Increase the number of contacts in the CVB’s travel writer database by at least 10% by Q3 2021.

■ GOAL: Increase the total number of PlayLIST subscribers by 10% over 2020.

RESULT: Combined with pitching recovery stories to various national outlets, public relations efforts at both the US Travel Association’s International Pow Wow and the Society of American Travel Writer’s Central States Chapter resulted in a 10% increase in the travel writer database. _______

RESULT: By the end of 2021, the number of PLAYlist

■ GOAL: Increase number of visitors to the destination by 5% over 2020. RESULT: By analyzing STR data, we are able to conclude that this goal was met due to the 35% increase in Occupancy from 50.1% to 67.5%, as well as the 26% increase in average daily rate from $90 to $113.

subscribers grew by 26%, from 27,000 to more than 34,000 subscribers. Key drivers to this increase included advertising campaigns with a sweepstakes component along with the Cajun Christmas in a Box promotion, which garnered 1,675 e-news opt-ins. Moving into 2022, we shifted the focus to increasing the open rate. _______ ■ GOAL: Increase partner logins to the Extranet by 20% by the end of 2021. RESULT: With an industry-wide staff shortage throughout 2021, and a Southwest Louisiana mindset of recovery, the team focused on building community relationships and content creation to support local partners instead of new technology training. Therefore this goal was not met and has been carried into 2022. _______ ■ GOAL: By the beginning of the fourth quarter, migrate and launch a freshly redesigned VisitLakeCharles.org website with a mobile-first approach. RESULT: Visit Lake Charles launched a mobile-first approach website near the end of 2021. The website has a fresh look that complements the playful branding elements which enhance the idea of Southwest Louisiana as Louisiana’s Playground.

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BRAND EVOLUTION The Visit Lake Charles Louisiana’s Playground brand evolved in 2021 to have a more holistic approach with single hero images showcasing aspirational messages such as “Live It Up” and “Soak it Up” with the sky having prominence to represent the idea of being uplifting while reinforcing the juxtaposition of experiences in Louisiana’s Playground. Whether you want to Live It Up, Party It Up, Play It Up, or Eat It Up, it’s time to schedule a Playdate in Louisiana’s Playground! It’s a positive message, and the Visit Lake Charles team has worked to bring heightened creativity into the marketplace with a new Visit Lake Charles website and inspirational campaign to encourage travel in 2022.


Watch :30 video spot.




it up

it up

it up

WANT A BETTER VACATION? Raise your expectations.

DOUBLE DOWN. Let the good times roll.



LET YOUR HAIR DOWN. Explore, discover and … exhale.


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Increased Facebook follower count from 90,781 to 91,976 (+1.3%) with 8,480,759 impressions (+37.9%), 233,812 engagements (+22.7%), and 85,222 post link clicks (+72.7%) Increased Twitter follower count from 6,607 to 6,746 (+2.1%) with 554,995 organic impressions Increased Instagram follower count from 15,255 to 16,798 (+ 9.7%) with 1,089,222 impressions (+78.7%), 34,171 engagements (+53%), and 999 profile actions (+171.5%) Increased LinkedIn follower count from 830 to 1,048 (+ 26.3%) with 22,359 impressions (+42.4%), 2,686 engagements (+152.2%), and 1,850 post clicks (+290.3%)






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Post link clicks increased by 73% to 89,946 across all social media channels



TOP MEDIA MENTIONS 1. 53.8M Reach: USA Today “Golfweek’s Best 2021: Best public golf courses you can play, state by state” 2. 29.8M Reach: Country Living Magazine “7 Virtual Mardi Gras Events That Let the Good Times Roll” 3. 12.8M Reach: The Epoch Times “Mother Nature’s Hidden Gems” 4. 11.7M Reach: HowStuffWorks “Why Boudin Is Cajun Country’s Most Famous Sausage” 5. 2.54M Reach: Houston Chronicle “10 things to see and do on a trip to Lake Charles, as it rebounds from crushing hurricanes”

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718,970 website users in 2021, an increase of 33.44% compared to 2020


Source: Google Analytics

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TOURISM GOALS & RESULTS 2021 ■ GOAL: Increase VisaVue cardholder count by 10% over Quarter 3 of 2020 by the end of 2021.

■ GOAL: Increase international media exposure by 5% over 2019 based on Meltwater data.

RESULTS: The increase of 32% for 2021 over the third quarter of 2020 was made possible by the ease on international travel restrictions as well as positioning Lake Charles as a safe place to visit featuring outdoor attractions, like the Creole Nature Trail, which grew in popularity during the pandemic. Constant and open communication about local health guidelines was also key in gaining international traveler confidence. _______

RESULTS: The increase in international media exposure based on Meltwater data was at 57% when comparing 2021 to 2019. One reason for the high increase is that the storms of 2020 greatly elevated Lake Charles on the international stage for recovery, funding, and human interest stories. _______

■ GOAL: Maintain established relationships by averaging 40 contacts per month with both domestic and international operators. RESULTS: The average contacts per month was at 28, which was impacted by tradeshows that continued to postpone, cancel, or hold virtual options throughout 2021. The Delta Variant played a large role in lower show attendance by domestic and international operators. _______

■ GOAL: Work with existing motor coach tours to retain activities within the 5-parish Imperial Calcasieu region until Southwest Louisiana amenities are available. RESULTS: With the loss of the Mardi Gras Museum and large portions of the Creole Nature Trail due to the storms of 2020, Visit Lake Charles forged new partnerships to host groups that otherwise would not be able to experience Southwest Louisiana. For example, Mardi Gras king cake demonstrations were moved to the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, and shorter routes were developed for the Creole Nature Trail. Visit Lake Charles achieved the goal of finding alternatives for keeping booked business.

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$250,000+ invested in community organizations and events


Awarded $32,500 to local festivals and events

In the second of a five-year commitment,

through the Tourism Development and

Visit Lake Charles provided $100,000 to

event organizers for the following events:

Foundation Baseball Facility Enhancement

Banners at McNeese, Rouge et Blanc, Boudin

fund. The cooperative agreement calls for

Wars, Lake Charles Symphony, Christmas

McNeese to allow Visit Lake Charles to use the

Lighting Festival, Chuck Fest, Smoke & Barrel,

baseball stadium and facilities for four weeks

Live at the Lakefront, the Chennault International

each July through 2024 to accommodate and

Airshow, and The City of Lake Charles 4 of July

attract large national competitive youth baseball


tournaments like the New Balance Future Stars

Marketing Grant program. Partners included

the McNeese State University Athletic


Series (NBFSS). •

In an effort to encourage and support marketing initiatives that will attract and retain visitors, Visit Lake Charles also provided $55,000 for the Arts/Tourism Partnership Grant, which is

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Awarded $100,000 to sporting groups and local

facilities through the Sports Warchest Grants. Funds are award to various groups to promote

administered by the Arts & Humanities Council

sporting events that support tourism and provide

of SWLA.

economic growth in Calcasieu Parish.


COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT GOALS & RESULTS 2021 ■ GOAL: By July 2020, have 40% of information shared by Visit Lake Charles submitted directly from stakeholders, including governmental organizations, community residents, social and health organizations, economic development, business and industry, and not-for-profit organizations. RESULTS: The community development role has realigned as destination development/community engagement over the past year to focus on future growth. However, with recovery on the forefront in 2021, this goal was met with 46% of the volunteer organizations active in disaster recovery (VOAD) being listed as partners on Visit Lake Charles’ website. Also, Rebuilding SWLA Coalition’s Facebook page and website became another mechanism for sharing critical information. _______ ■ GOAL: CVB staff to participate in quarterly volunteer events and have 50% of staff engaged as members in at least one civic organization. RESULTS: Staff-wide volunteer events are held twice a year instead of quarterly due to workflow and scheduling. 50% of staff is engaged on at least one organization’s board or

participates as a member or volunteer. Staff serve on the Arts Council, Imperial Calcasieu Museum board, Brimstone Museum board, Chuck Fest Foundation board, No Man’s Land board, Downtown Business Association board, Greater Lake Charles Rotary board, Kiwanis, Fusion Five of SWLA board, Big Brothers Big Sisters board, volunteer with Hobo Hotel for Cats, Friends of Library Calcasieu, among others. _______ ■ GOAL: Review events and check-in with planners weekly to promote initiatives supporting the community’s long- and short-term needs while being a resource for community groups. RESULTS: Along with the Rebuilding Southwest Louisiana Coalition to meet this goal, Visit Lake Charles also worked with the Community Foundation’s 50-year plan through committees and continues to support efforts of local non-profits, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury’s Longterm Community Recovery Plan, and other community organizations throughout Southwest Louisiana.

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VISITOR EXPERIENCE GOALS & RESULTS 2021 ■ GOAL: Add a Live Chat virtual visitor interface on VisitLakeCharles.org to allow tourist information to assist online and offline visitors by July of 2021. RESULT: Visit Lake Charles tourist information staff was not able to work from the Welcome Center in 2021 due to storm damage. With the short-staffed marketing team and the loss of the website redesign project manager, the Live Chat virtual interface will be implemented in 2022. _______ ■ GOAL: Improve visitors’ self-service abilities by adding free Wi-Fi at the Lake Charles Welcome Center by September of 2021. RESULT: With the building in disrepair throughout the majority of 2021, this goal was not able to be met. We plan to upgrade to an increased fiber connection to offer this opportunity by summer 2022. _______ ■ GOAL: Obtain an overall average rating of four on TripAdvisor for Visit Lake Charles visitor centers and personnel by the end of 2021. Also, use available technology for Tourist Information Manager to educate staff on trends and advances in visitor services strategy monthly. RESULT: With the main office closed until July of 2021 along with COVID restrictions, there were limitations and natural barriers for reaching this goal. Visit Lake Charles has produced review cards to hand out for Trip Advisor and Google, and this goal is still part of the plan for 2022.

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SHONDA MANUEL Arts & Humanities of Southwest Louisiana


JIM BOYER Southwest Louisiana Lodging Association

KANE MITCHELL, SECRETARY/TREASURER West Calcasieu Association of Commerce

JAMES “JC” CORMIER West Calcasieu Community Center Authority

JONATHAN RINGO Calcasieu Parish Police Jury

NICOLE MONCRIEF City of Lake Charles

MARK LAVERGNE Southwest Louisiana Festivals


ROB KING Southwest Louisiana Restaurant Association

LAUREN COOPER West Calcasieu Community Center Authority

MIKE BUCKLEY Southwest Louisiana Lodging Association


FINANCE HEATHER SAVOIE Sr. Vice President of Finance


CINDY JOHNSON Director of Accounting

ANGIE MANNING, CDME Vice President of Communications

ANNE TABER KLENKE Vice President of Destination Development/Community Engagement

SALES ERIC ZARTLER, CDME, TMP Sr. Vice President of Sales

COLTEN MILLER, MBA Director of Brand Marketing

MELISSA TRAHAN Director of Visitor Experiences

TAYLOR BEARD STANLEY Sr. Director of Convention Sales

ANNA STRIDER, MBA Director of Digital Strategies/Online Marketing

KRISTEN SHIVER Visitor Experience Manager

KAITLYN GALLEGOS, MBA, TMP Director of Global Sales

KATHRYN SHEA DUNCAN Director of Social Media

WILL NIDECKER Adventure Guide

TARA JOHNSON Meeting Sales Manager

SHALISA ROLAND Director of Public Relations


SAMUEL DANGERFIELD, III Director of Sports Relations


HANNAH NYMAN Sports Events Coordinator

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VisitLakeCharles.org #VisitLakeCharles #LouisianasPlayground