ST. FRANCISVILLE — In 2014, the West Feliciana Parish Tourist Commission began an endeavor to improve its strategy to attract visitors with an overall goal of increasing occupancy throughout the calendar year and improving the economic impact of tourism in the area, a news release said.
The effort began with a series of charrettes — idea-generating think tanks — that targeted specific stakeholder groups and ended with a community meeting.
Information gleaned from the think tanks became the basis of a strategic plan, prompting the Tourist Commission to devise an ambitious five-year plan, according to Tourist Commission Executive Director Laurie Walsh.
“Members of the commission put in countless hours developing the plan, but it would not have come together without the input of the many citizens and industry experts who participated in the charrettes,” Walsh said.
The strategic plan, Walsh says, identifies seven key goals: enhance financial security of the Tourism Office; increase weekday visits and overnight stays for an enhanced overall economic impact; partner with others to improve ability to attract visitors during off-seasons through additional products and promotions; revamp brand message, logo and advertising templates for better recognition by the public, continuity and ease of use; exploit social media to improve advertising and marketing at minimal additional cost; develop sample itineraries to increase the awareness of potential visitors on the variety of activities in the parish; and educate the public on the role of the Tourist Commission.
“Through the strategic planning process, the commission reaffirmed its mission statement, which is to market and maintain tourism as a strong economic base for West Feliciana Parish,” Walsh said.
The vision and values behind the mission target tourism as a significant source of income for the parish and a top spot for family vacations as well as a place to experience the Mississippi River, she said.
“The hope is that people view St. Francisville as a farm-to-table destination, a soft ‘adventure capital of Louisiana,’ and a place to retreat and recreate, as well as a preferred business retreat, small conference and meeting destination,” Walsh said.
As a tourist destination, she said, both the Tourist Commission and visitors value the beauty of the area, its historical assets, family atmosphere, small-town tranquil feel and security.
“It’s a diversity of tourism assets and people and the passion that we all have for community,” Walsh said.
The 11-page document also provides an analysis that identifies the parish’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Some of the threats listed include state budget cuts, parish budget limitations, loss of riverfront to developers and competition from regional events during peak seasons.