Visit Lake Charles | 2023 Business Plan

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It is remarkable to see the progress that has been made in Southwest Louisiana over the past two years from a wholistic view of the destination. From new attractions and businesses

opening to restaurateurs pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity to thriving festivals and events, these developments generate a solid runway for Visit Lake Charles to attract meetings, sports, and leisure visitors in 2023.

Visit Lake Charles is poised to meet the challenges of a continuously changing travel industry through a tremendous amount of innovation and hard work. Each department at Visit Lake Charles strives to drive visitation and support the local economy through programming that results in travel expenditures. A continued focus will be the utilization of Visit Lake Charles owned media channels to bolster engagement and awareness of events happening within the destination. Last year, Visit Lake Charles launched the first podcast by a destination marketing organization in Louisiana. The podcast, Louisiana’s Playground, was widely received and continues to be a great success into 2023. New initiatives for this year include a refresh for the marketing campaign which will highlight the idea of joy that can be found by visiting Louisiana’s Playground.

Communications programs for 2023 will focus on showcasing stories that highlight the rich diversity of people who champion authentic experiences. Travel trends for media indicate that the media is just as interested in the people who make up the destination – not only what can be experienced in the destination itself. Content creators and media professionals are actively seeking story angles with

a human-interest storyline, so that will be a major push for public relations and social media which will incorporate strong messaging for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Sales strategies for conventions, meetings, and events will encompass the balance between shortterm bookings and business that is booked further in advance with the target of increasing confirmed bookings by 15%. International travel trends for 2023 include an emphasis on the great outdoors, sports tourism, luxury travel, culinary journeys, and travel inspiration from entertainment.

Visit Lake Charles is either spearheading or actively participating in an array of community initiatives to support smart growth through working on each of the 10 catalytic projects as identified through the Community Foundation’s public outreach to create the Just Imagine SWLA masterplan. The team is working alongside numerous agencies, municipalities, and businesses that are focused on developing the destination to attract visitors and group business while also enhancing projects that promote a better quality of life for residents.

As you walk through the 2023 business plan, you will see the goals, strategies, and overarching ideas that Visit Lake Charles is implementing to drive visitation, generate media coverage and online engagement. We are looking forward to a prosperous year working with our partners in tourism across the destination.

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


To advocate for the tourism industry and promote Lake Charles/SWLA as a dynamic destination serving our visitors and community.


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.


We will be known as:

• Innovative and impactful leaders in the industry.

• A transparent and efficient organization.

• Credible and dedicated tourism professionals.


VLC is the only organization in SWLA providing advocacy, promotion, and education for the tourism industry through:

• Cutting-edge marketing and sales programs.

• Industry leadership and collaboration with elected leaders/stakeholders.

• Programs, partnerships, and communications that foster the visitor economy and develop the destination.

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Refine data-driven marketing and sales decision-making.

• Year-over-year growth in ADR, at least 0.5% above inflation.

• Year-over-year growth in campaign ROI percentage, over 2020 baseline.

• Better targeting of visitors, measured by a bounce rate below 60% by 2023.


1. Identify criteria and execute a process to retain an agency of record.

2. Execute a visitor behavior study.

3. Develop and implement an approach to transition VLC to a flexible marketing strategy.

4. Redesign our sales data collection partnership with hotels.

5. Strategically expand our data fluency in all departments.

Partner and advocate to develop our destination.

• Year-over-year growth in aggregate score on community/stakeholder survey.

• Destination master plan completed by 2021

• Year-over-year growth in earned partnership value (EPV) average score over 2020 baseline.

1. Create a destination master plan.

2. Expand “Destination SWLA” beyond hotels and add partners to Extranet.

3. Research, design, and implement a tourism ambassador program.

4. Redesign a rigorous process to review and approve grants and co-ops.

5. Design and implement a monthly communication to partners and stakeholders.

6. Design a community engagement program for all VLC staff.

Amplify our organizational effectiveness.

• Year-over-year growth in employee engagement score (Gallup Q12.)

• Bring all whole systems model category scores to 4.0 or higher by 2023.

1. Optimize our organizational structure.

2. Conduct a facility needs assessment.

3. Catalog and assess the effectiveness of our technological systems.

4. Grow our culture of accountability through 360 evaluations.

5. Thoughtfully redesign internal communications and staff meetings.

This year, Visit Lake Charles will have the opportunity to reassert and evaluate its values for the 2024-2026 Strategic Plan, which will continue to shape our culture to ensure we can meet stakeholder demands.

In progress On hold Executed | 5



Visit Lake Charles is evolving its creative messaging while still touting the destination brand pillars of gaming, culinary, outdoors and luxury in a new campaign that continues to leverage our brand identity as Louisiana’s Playground.

Launching in Spring 2023, “As Much Joy As You Can Pack In” focuses on the belief that people travel for joy and how that joy speaks to them as travelers. As part of this campaign, we wanted lean into that thought by developing a highly interactive and visual campaign that evokes “Joy” and differentiates Lake Charles

from other destinations in a truly innovative way.

Lake Charles is a community with so much to do. The biggest challenge is how much can you pack into that weekend trip. From biking to boating, gaming to golfing, kayaking to fishing, Lake Charles guarantees you’ll work up an appetite, which is why you’ll also find some of the best food in the country here. With all there is to do, a trip to Lake Charles becomes less about finding a few things to do and more how much joy can you pack in.

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■ GOAL: L aunch new “As Much Joy As You Can Pack In” campaign.


• Execute dynamic brand activation event(s) in target markets for leisure travelers and media professionals

• Implement a strategic conversion-based advertising plan with Miles Partnership

• Develop a creative email communication highlighting the ways to “Unpack Joy”

• Create a personalized video series showcasing how locals “Unpack Joy” _______

■ GOAL: Increase average out-of-state visitor spend by 10% over 2022


• Create versatile digital content to showcase destination experiences and encourage extended overnight stays

• Leverage audio and video media channels to drive awareness to niche audiences

• Target out-of-state visitors with a high interest in food, outdoors and cultural experiences


■ GOAL: Increase social media engagement across all Visit

Lake Charles owned channels by 25% over 2022


• Create a consistent publishing schedule across all channels that aligns with advertising strategies and includes both organic and paid components

• Plan and execute highly targeted influencer marketing to generate increased earned media exposure and boost brand awareness

• Film and publish short-form vertical videos that can be distributed across all platforms

• Utilize CrowdRiff to increase User Generated Content (UGC) galleries

■ GOAL: Increase representation of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities by 25% over 2022


• Engage with community locals to cultivate authentic stories and identify shared experiences

• Produce inclusive imagery, video, and audio content to increase the share of voice

• Develop targeted dynamic content modules and user personas to serve specific messaging

■ GOAL: I ncrease organic website user traffic by 15% over 2022


• Implement a robust website user retargeting strategy across paid and owned media outlets

• Elevate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to increase search engine results page (SERP) rankings

• Create engaging Localhood Stories from dynamic content to capitalize impressions on Google Discover

■ GOAL: Increase the number of earned media stories generated around Lake Charles brand pillars by 15% over 2022


• Develop compelling story angles that are aligned with brand advertising messaging and are centered around Southwest Louisiana’s experiences and signature events

• Pitch 50 stories to a strategically curated list of regional and national media outlets to secure coverage

• Generate a quarterly Public Relations e-newsletter to inform media on the destination offerings

• Host media writers who align with the destination brand and experiences through the creation of customized itineraries for visitation.


Advertising on high mileage delivery & rideshare vehicles with Carvertise allows us to reach our audience in a new way, as well as target feeder markets to drive tourism and economic development. In addition to an increase in brand awareness, Carvertise can further optimize campaigns with an add on feature called SWARM, where wrapped cars go to high impact events like sports stadiums, concerts, festivals, fairs, etc.

The inaugural Chuck Eats Restaurant Week campaign includes local billboard signage, social media advertising, augmented reality video, display ads, search engine marketing, geo-fence elements and more!

5-pg advertorial spread in the spring issue of The Local Palate, in addition to dedicated e-newsletters, ROS banners and sponsored social media posts.

VLC will film Say Yes to the Venue mini series that captures a couple’s quest to find the perfect wedding venue in Southwest Louisiana and highlights the services that we offer.

The Louisiana Food +

celebrate the best of Louisiana and the South, from its culinary superstars and beverage experts to southwest Louisiana’s unique Cajun and Creole heritage and culture, seafood, artisans, live musicians and more.

Wine Festival, presented by Visit Lake Charles will
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1. DestiCon 2. Destination International CDME 3. Destinations International Marketing & Communications Summit 4. DI Advocacy/DEI Summit 5. ESTO – US Travel 6. eTourism Summit 7. IMM North America 8. Keep Louisiana Beautiful 9. Louisiana Culinary Trails Restaurant Takeover 10. Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association Convention 11. Louisiana Tourism Leadership Academy 12. Louisiana Travel Summit 13. LTA CEO/Senior Leadership Forum 14. PRSA Conference 15. SATW Central Chapter 16. SEE Crowdriff Conference 17. Simpleview Summit 18. STS Connections 19. STS Marketing College 20. TBEX 21. Travel Unity Summit 22. TTRA Marketing Outlook Forum 23. US Travel Communications Meeting 24. US Travel IPW 25. US Travel Research Advisory Committee MARKETING EDUCATION & TRAVEL | 9


■ GOAL: Increase confirmed booking by 15% for 2023 over 2022.


• Generate content, sales support materials, and targeted promotions to entice meeting & event planners to bring their business to Southwest Louisiana.

• Work with partners to ensure we are helping fill needs periods still open for the year.

• Explore new tradeshow opportunities to build relationships with potential clients for 2023 and beyond.

• Reexamine our database to reengage past prospects and establish new business to ensure we have explored every opportunity effectively and efficiently.

■ GOAL: Examine and benchmark our booking windows to ensure that at least 35% of business being booked is over one year out so we can effectively manage our long-term strategy while remaining flexible in booking short-term business to fill needs periods.


• Produce a refreshed Meeting Planner Guide by mid-year in coordination with the marketing department.

• Host a meeting planner familiarization tour to showcase the destination’s current and future offerings.

• Enhance partnerships with hotels to identify what periods need to be booked, how they can bid on events further out, and what dates still need to be filled in the current calendar year.

• Develop new tradeshow follow-up strategy to improve our ability to stay top of mind, develop relationships, and book future business.

■ GOAL: Increase VisaVue visitor count by 10% over 2022 by end of 2023.


• Track international travel to Southwest Louisiana while keeping destination top-ofmind with operators by sharing new attractions, images, and content relevant to each market.

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■ GOAL: Engage industry partners in first-hand experiences

Southwest Louisiana can offer to groups as well as individual domestic and international visitors, allowing them to better showcase our destination.


• Host two tour operator site visits in 2023 to demonstrate current and future offerings.

• Take advantage of tradeshows in our region to promote pre/post familiarization tours.

• Review and expand current itineraries to elevate new opportunities or refreshed experiences in Southwest Louisiana.

■ GOAL: Generate a 30% increase in booked and ordered services for groups across all markets.


• Increase number of contract registration assistants, tour guides, and Gumbeaux Gator performers to ensure we have the staff to meet requests that take place on the same day.

• Create new packages of items offered to groups based on

booked room nights and attendance

• Research trends in the services department to ensure a competitive edge for Visit Lake Charles.

■ GOAL: Maintain our 5 Star customer satisfaction rating across all markets.


• Continue to clearly communicate deadlines to our clients for services orders to ensure availability and timely delivery of requested items.

• Utilize the services brochure, our online request system, and other tools to effectively market all items available to clients with booked business.

• Work with individual sales managers to better cultivate relationships with the clients for a seamless transition from sales to services.

1. ABA 2. Brand USA Travel Week 3. Connect Southeast 4. Connect RTO Marketplace 5. Destination International CDME 6. Destinations International Sales & Services Summit 7. Express Diversity 8. Louisiana SGMP 9. Louisiana Travel Summit 10. LSAE Annual Convention 11. NTA Travel Exchange 12. Simpleview Summit 13. Travel South Global Summit 14. Travel South International Showcase 15. Travel Unity Summit 16. US Travel IPW 17. Weddings with Style SALES
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■ GOAL: Work with local Recreation and Parks districts to create a comprehensive Recreation Master Plan by Q3 for all of Calcasieu Parish that is inclusive of local use for quality of life as well as sports tourism as an economic driver.


• Meet with local recreational facility operators and elected officials to create a survey of their constituents seeking public input on what they would like to see in the local parks.

• Compile data through the National Recreation and Parks Association toolbox and hand off to Huddle Up Group to devise the plan.

• Present the completed plan to the local recreation districts and elected officials to open discussions on next steps.

■ GOAL: Creation of a Sports Commission within the jurisdiction of Visit Lake Charles by the end of 2023 in an effort to grow our commitment and national reputation as the Youth Sports Capital of Louisiana and evolve that brand to the Amateur Sports Capital of Louisiana.


• Conduct research with other sports commissions around the country who have a track record of success in making this model successful.

• Utilize our membership with Sports ETA to seek professional guidance and best practices.

• Work with industry leading firm to build out a 5-year plan to pave a successful roadmap including targeted events/ organizations as well as sales missions.

• Continue seeking new events to show our diversification in events that we are able to host in the area.

■ GOAL: Increased collaboration with the Marketing team to utilize their skills to best promote upcoming events and opportunities for Southwest Louisiana through video, print and social media.


• Conduct monthly meetings to discuss upcoming events and opportunities and decide how/where the marketing team can support programming.

• Identify various events throughout the year to capture video and photos, and create a SWLA sports hype video.

• Grow the Youth Sports Capital Twitter page following from 332 to over 500 by end of year.

1. LHSAA Annual Convention 2. LHSAA Meetings 3. Louisiana Travel Summit 4. Louisiana USSSA Hall of Fame Induction 5. LTA CEO/Senior Leadership Forum 6. MMX Unconvention 7. S.P.O.R.T.S. - The Relationship Conference 8. Simpleview Summit 9. Sports ETA Sports Event Symposium & CSEE 10. TEAMS Conference & Olympic SportsLink 11. US Sports Congress SPORTS EDUCATION & TRAVEL | 12


■ GOAL: Installation of a Gateway Sign in Sulphur on Interstate 10 facing eastbound traffic to increase visitation and create a downtown cultural district.


• Assist the city in finalizing a landscape architect plan for approval and obtaining right of way from West Cal Arena & Events Center to be able to maintain the sign via access from Arena Road

• Keep construction of access road by Sulphur maintenance top-of-mind

• Work with the mayor and City Council to define, implement, and then build awareness of a Cultural District in Downtown Sulphur

■ GOAL: Spearhead construction of a New Imperial Calcasieu Mardi Gras Museum, providing the cornerstone for all things Mardi Gras in Southwest Louisiana.


• Find and purchase land for museum

• Work with architect to design the museum facility within budget and space constraints

• Collaborate with the Mardi Gras Museum Board on exhibit design and spaces

■ GOAL: Work with the Nellie Lutcher District and Strong Downtowns committees of Just Imagine SWLA to make progress on initiatives.


• Continue to shepherd collaboration efforts between the Live Arts Venue Alliance board and theater groups to create a live arts venue space that will work for all theater entities

• Submit Nellie Lutcher Memorial Park nomination for inclusion on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail

■ GOAL: Collaborate with the City of Westlake to move riverfront development forward.


• In conjunction with City of Westlake and Horseshoe Casino, determine viable means to encourage additional visitation to the community by developing the riverfront

• Provide research on how other communities have successfully developed their waterfronts

■ GOAL: Increase Visit Lake Charles visibility within the communities of SWLA and within the tourism industry as a whole

STRATEGY: Continue to work with VLC team to increase involvement on local boards/committees as well as at community events

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■ GOAL: Increase outreach engagement with our partners to Enhanced engagement.


• Attend networking events such as Quarterly Hotel Meetings and Chamber After Hours

• Engage with neighboring and gateway visitor centers quarterly, keeping them updated with inspiration guides and maps and learning what is new

■ GOAL: To maintain an overall average rating of greater than 4.0 on VLC social media platforms ratings of visitor centers.


• Daily checks of VLC social media platforms by the Director of Visitor Experience to respond to any comments or issues expressed by visitors to improve visitor services ratings of our area

• Provide visitors with updated QR codes to improve ease of access for input/reviews

• Director of Visitor Experience to share relevant reviews with staff and communications to share on social media when pertinent ■ GOAL: Increase visitors to Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point by 10% in 2023.

STRATEGIES: • Work with local schools to increase field trips to CNTAP • Ask our guests to follow and share on social media. • Capturing photos by, or of guests when appropriate. • Encourage guests to experience wildlife trends (migratory nesting, hatching seasons, shrimp season, hunting, fishing, and crabbing). • Enrich visitors experience by developing knowledge of statewide tourism assets through Certified Travel Specialists Certification.

2. Certified
3. Destination
4. Destinations
5. Destinations International Board Meetings 6. Destinations International CEO Summit 7. ESTO – US Travel 8. Government Finance Officers Association Spring Conf. 9. IPW - US Travel 10. LACVB/LTA Board Meetings 11. Louisiana Travel Summit 12. Lt. Gov. Legislative Function 13. LTA Annual Meeting 14. LTA CEO/Senior Leadership Forum 15. Travel South Global Summit 16. Travel South International Showcase 17. Travel South USA Sales Mission 18. US Travel Assoc. Board Meetings VISITOR EXPERIENCE & ADMIN. EDUCATION & TRAVEL CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU 1205 N. Lakeshore Dr, Lake Charles, LA 70601 800-456-SWLA | CREOLE NATURE TRAIL ADVENTURE POINT 2740 Ruth St., Sulphur, LA 70665 337-502-4358 | | 14
CEO Roundtable/IMEX
Training Specialists Training
Capitol Hill



City of Sulphur


West Calcasieu Association of Commerce


Southwest Louisiana Lodging Association


Calcasieu Parish Police Jury


Chamber Southwest


Arts & Humanities of Southwest Louisiana






Chief Operating Officer


Vice President of Destination Development/Community Engagement


Director of Visitor Experiences


Visitor Experience Manager


Adventure Guide


Adventure Guide


Adventure Guide


West Calcasieu Community Center Authority


City of Lake Charles


Southwest Louisiana Restaurant Association


Southwest Louisiana Festivals

HIREN ZAVERI Southwest Louisiana Lodging Association


HEATHER SAVOIE, CDME Sr. Vice President of Finance

CINDY JOHNSON Director of Accounting


TAYLOR BEARD STANLEY, TMP Vice President of Sales

KAITLYN GALLEGOS, MBA, TMP Director of Global Sales


Director of Association Sales

TARA JOHNSON Meeting Sales Manager

SPORTS ERIC ZARTLER, CDME, TMP Sr. Vice President of Sports


Sports Event Coordinator



Chief Marketing Officer

ANGIE MANNING, CDME Vice President of Communications


Director of Brand Marketing


Director of Digital Strategies/Online Marketing


Director of Content/Video Marketing

KATHRYN SHEA DUNCAN Director of Social Media


Director of Public Relations

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