Visit Baton Rouge promotes city, parish, region _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Stacy Gill -- Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, checks his notes before speaking with a group of businessmen and women about tourism and its effects on the Baton Rouge area Aug. 5 at a networking luncheon hosted by the Zachary Chamber of Commerce.

The Zachary Chamber of Commerce hosted its monthly networking luncheon Aug. 5, welcoming Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, as the guest speaker.

Arrigo said the mission of Visit Baton Rouge is to increase visitation to and awareness of the Baton Rouge area to enhance economic impact.

“The topic of tourism sounds easy to understand but there’s so much more to welcoming visitors to the Greater Baton Rouge area, of which Zachary is a part of,” Arrigo said. “We get asked all the time, ‘What do you do, exactly?’ ”

Arrigo said Visit BR works to meet the goals of visitors and meeting planners and then exceed their expectations with hospitality and Gold Star service.

Part of that Gold Star service stems from staying in touch with area partners such as the city of Zachary, city of Central, Baton Rouge Sports Commission and Baton Rouge Film Commission, to name a few, to market up-to-date information on area attractions and what each partner is offering, citing Z-Fest, Bayou Country Superfest, Red Stick Revelry, the Louisiana Marathon and other events as examples.

“We have a great city and parish we can all be proud of, but we’re growing,” Arrigo said. “We’re known for our food, politics and Saturday nights in Tiger and Mumford stadiums, but one of the biggest challenges we have is selling this great city to meeting and convention planners, which is a large part of what we do.”

In recent years, more meeting and convention planners are looking to Baton Rouge and Louisiana to host larger, more national and international events, which is in part due to the success of the film industry.

“Major economic drivers to Baton Rouge are LSU, Southern University and the film industry,” Arrigo said.

The organization has been working to secure events such as the U.S. Bowling Congress and U.S. Youth Regional Soccer Championships, as well as hotel accommodations for each. The same goes for companies filming television and movies here, which is not easy, Arrigo said. “We’re lacking in hotels,” he said.

According to Arrigo, Baton Rouge has been named the Most Affordable City (2014), South’s Best Foodie City for Groups (2013 and 2014) and Southern Hospitality City (2013) by Convention South magazine. Horizon Travel & Lifestyle Magazine voted Baton Rouge as one of the “10 American Cities to Visit in 2015.”

According to a 2013 study prepared for the Louisiana Office of Tourism by the Research Department of the U.S. Travel Association, East Baton Rouge Parish ranks in the top five parishes based on domestic travel impact. The other top parishes included Orleans, Jefferson, Caddo and Lafayette.

Arrigo said East Baton Rouge also posted $844 million in domestic travel expenditures during 2013, up 1.6 percent from 2012.

“Those expenditures benefited EBRP with $146.2 million in payroll, 6,800 jobs and $48.7 million in state and local tax revenue,” Arrigo said.

The Chamber’s Lunch and Learn series, held the first Wednesday of each month at the Americana YMCA, 4200 Liberty Way, Zachary, features a guest speaker, door prizes, giveaways, networking opportunities and a catered lunch. Cost to attend is $15 for Chamber members and $20 for non-members or guests.