Baton Rouge, its people and its food are the stars of an international film shoot that wrapped up this week.
Red Stick residents may never see the final cut, but people in England and the rest of the United Kingdom will get a look at a gorgeous plate of duck, andouille and cheeses from the capital city.
That popular dish was filmed Tuesday at City Pork 2 on Jefferson Highway by a crew hired by Brand USA. The congressionally created agency is responsible for marketing the United States as an international tourist destination.
Video and audio of the Baton Rouge visit will be shown to audiences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as England.
“Louisiana increased its international arrivals by 18 percent” in 2013, noted Kyle Edmiston, the state’s assistant secretary over the Louisiana Office of Tourism. Edmiston said that was the largest percentage gain in the nation.
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimated that 352,000 people from other countries traveled to Louisiana in 2013. That was an uptick of 54,000 over the 298,000 estimated for 2012.
Brand USA officials reported that international visitors to the U.S. in 2013 spent an average of $6,727.
Such average expenditures in Louisiana that year would have totaled more than $2 billion.
Louisiana’s visitors were a mere fraction of New York’s total of 9.8 million international visitors in 2013. Department of Commerce numbers, however, show only eight states attracted a million or more visitors that year. Louisiana tied for 18th place.
Estimates of international travel numbers come from surveys of passenger plane arrivals. They do not include people who may drive into the U.S. from Canada or Mexico.
“The Louisiana Office of Tourism is a partner with Brand USA because they add to the value proposition for international marketing,” Edmiston said during the week’s gastronomic tour.
“International visitors want an authentic experience, and Louisiana provides that in every corner of the state,” Edmiston added. “International visitors stay longer, spend more and are willing to explore, which makes them an ideal target for Louisiana.”
International visitors also help pay for Brand USA’s advertising efforts, according to the U.S. Department of State. Travelers from 38 visa-waiver eligible countries can pay $14 each to arrive and remain in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. That money is poured into Brand USA’s budget.
Last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, a record 75 million international travelers visited this country. Those visitors spent enough to support 1.1 million U.S. jobs, the department reported in March.
On Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Brand USA’s film crew toured six downtown restaurants before deciding to record the many ways the magicians at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar on North Boulevard prepare their mollusks.
Katie Guasco, director of marketing and communications for Visit Baton Rouge, accompanied the tour. The local organization forwarded $20,000 to Brand USA last year.
“Working with Brand USA and the Louisiana Office of Tourism on cooperative programs like this makes perfect sense for Visit Baton Rouge,” Guasco said. “It allows us to triple our reach for a third of the marketing dollars.”
In recent years, Guasco added, Baton Rouge has drawn more of its international visitors from “Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Australia is also coming on strong.”
Brand USA, Guasco said, gives “us a better chance to reach visitors across the globe.”
Guasco noted that Baton Rouge also has attracted lots of magazine attention in recent years.
MovieMaker Magazine named Baton Rouge the Best Small City for Filmmakers this year, Guasco recalled. She said Horizon Travel Magazine listed it as a Top 10 American City to visit in 2015.
Convention South magazine gave Baton Rouge its 2013 Southern Hospitality City award. The same publication handed Baton Rouge its 2013 and 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards for “The South’s Best Foodie Cities for Groups.”