Louisiana will begin wooing Australian, Brazilian and Chinese tourists in the coming years as it looks to build on the growth in international tourism it has enjoyed in the past year.
The state saw an 18 percent climb in the number of international visitors in 2013, the highest rate of any state in the country, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said Tuesday.
International visitors are highly sought after because they generally stay longer and spend more money, Dardenne said. They also are more likely than domestic travelers to fan out across the state instead of sticking close to New Orleans.
What’s more, they can fill a void in the travel calendar because, unlike most American leisure travelers, their visits extend into the workweek, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau President Stephen Perry said.
However, international travelers comprise only a small fraction of the total visitors who come to New Orleans. Last year, about 7 percent of the 9.1 million tourists traveling to New Orleans came from outside the country.
The United Kingdom, France and Germany are the largest source markets for international travelers to Louisiana.
Perry and Dardenne said they see opportunity for growth.
The state already has been able to reach out to more foreign travelers in part because of a partnership with Brand USA. The public-private partnership promotes the United States as a tourism destination and facilitates marketing efforts for destinations looking to woo foreign travelers.
Last month, for instance, the state partnered with Brand USA to host an awards dinner for the British Guild of Travel Writers in London, Dardenne said.
Louisiana is embarking on a two-pronged effort to lure more non-U.S. travelers.
First, the state is inviting more taste makers from around the world to visit Louisiana with the hope that the state will be favorably featured in news articles and travel brochures and will be high on the mind of tour operators, wholesalers, packagers and buyers, Perry said.
On Tuesday, Perry and Dardenne attended the Travel South International conference at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Loyola Avenue. The event has brought about 120 international buyers from more than 15 countries to Louisiana as part of an effort to promote travel in the southern part of the country.
Next year, New Orleans will host the Meier’s Weltreisen annual “Go West” familiarization tour for 100 German travel agents.
In 2016, New Orleans will be the host city for the IPW 2016, the largest international trade show in North America. The long-term impact of that convention is estimated at 1 million additional visitors and $1.7 billion, Dardenne said.
“Obviously, it’s a major coup for New Orleans to be hosting this event,” Dardenne said. “It gives us an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the city and the state in what is a critical marketplace for us, and that is international visitation.”
Louisiana also has set up shop in Brazil and Australia, two countries whose residents already have shown an interest in traveling to the state. Louisiana has opened sales offices in both countries and is actively marketing to people there, Dardenne said.
While bringing in more Brazilian and Australian travelers is the short-term goal, the state has its eye on attracting Chinese travelers over the long term, Perry said. China is the world’s largest source of outbound tourists. More than 115 million Chinese are expected to travel abroad during 2014, but just 3 percent of Chinese travelers visit the United States, Perry said.
“What that means is we have a gigantic opportunity,” he said. “We think we’re going to have a real tremendous growth from China.”