Tourism officials make stop in St. Francisville _lowres

Advocate photo by HOWARD ARCENEAUX -- Assistant Secretary for the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Kyle Edmonson, discusses the impact of tourism on St. Francsivlle and West Feliciana Parish during a reception May 8 at the West Feliciana Historic Society Museum.

The past is definitely the key to the future for St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish according to Kyle Edmonson, assistant secretary for the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Edmonson spoke May 8 to a group of several dozen at a reception at the West Feliciana Historic Society Museum as part of a 21-stop statewide tour by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and his staff touting National Tourism Week. Edmonson spoke in place of Dardenne, whose office oversees the state’s tourism promotion efforts. Throughout the weeklong tour of the state, officials stressed the positive economic impact of tourism on Louisiana and how history plays such a vital role in attracting people to the state. That point was central to Edmonson’s informal message as well.

“St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish are popular destinations because of the rich history of this area,” said Edmonson, who lives in West Feliciana with his wife, Leslie, and his stepchildren Catherine and Parker. “One thing that makes this area unique is the sense of preservation and the desire to share the rich history.”

Edmonson said tourism is an $11.2 billion industry in Louisiana, and the state has roughly 223,000 visitors in travel and hospitality monthly.

West Feliciana is becoming a more popular destination because of the increased traffic of riverboats, which make regular stops in St. Francisville with visitors eager to spend money locally.

“By the year 2020, we’re going to have up to 10 boats on the (Mississippi) river, and that is going to mean more visitors,” he said.

“International visitation is extremely important and we’ve seen an 18 percent increase over last year in international visitors, making us No. 1 of any state in that category. People are coming from Germany, France and the United Kingdom and they stay longer and spend more and they’re willing to explore.”

In addition, The Bluffs golf course has rejoined the Audubon Trail, which also will increase visitors to the area.

“There’s a real opportunity to showcase the assets of this beautiful parish,” Edmonson said.