Here we go again.
And, no, that’s not a segue about Ray Charles or Ronald Reagan.
I’m talking about U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best States Rankings” and that we, Louisiana, collectively, retain its bottom position for the second consecutive year.
The overall rank of 50th was calculated by looking at health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment.
I’m not sure, but I’d wager that if our politicians would put people first in each of those categories instead of, say, lobbyists, we’d have a better showing.
In the meantime, there is some good news. OK, don’t file it under the “good news,” but in the “All 50 U.S. States Excel at Something” category, it is this:
“Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana boasts the colonial-era French Quarter and infamous Mardi Gras festival of its largest city, New Orleans, birthplace of American jazz.”
Woo-hoo. Talk about low hanging fruit.
Anyway, about what I consider “good news” is that people still visit Louisiana. And Acadiana is holding its own, too.
“People haven’t stopped coming,” said Herman Fuselier, executive director of the St. Landry Tourism Commission. “We’ve been on those lists forever, now. But people still come for music, food, culture. If anything else, if we’re not No. 1 in that, we’re close to the top.”
Herman said the ranking doesn’t figure into a visitor’s plan when they head here.
“When people come, they don’t ask about the bad statistics and the bad news,” said Herman. “They want to know about boudin, zydeco and Cajun music and crawfish and seasoning.”
Tourism is the fourth largest employer in the state of Louisiana, “so it’s still working,” he said.
Like me, Herman’s heard the naysayers, too.
“‘Why do you live here? So poor, so racist,’ so this and that, but I mean, it’s where you want to live,” he said. “It’s home for me and a bunch of other people. For all the bad stuff, people are still coming.”
Indeed. People still come here from all over the world, and there’s a segment of the populace that understands why and even lives all those reasons why they come.
Herman said the locals, by birth or choice, need to talk about “the good stuff more,” he said. “I’ve mentioned this so many times since taking this job. Every area has crime and poverty and everything else. But there’s still a lot of good stuff out there. And when people talk about it, it makes a difference.”
Ben Berthelot, executive director of Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, took a look at the story about states rankings.
“I don’t think you can correlate that report with travel,” Ben said, adding that when people make a decision to travel, that’s not the type of report they’re looking at.
“Last weekend, people flocked to Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby, and they’re ranked 40th in this study,” he said. “It just does not have a direct correlation to travel, in my opinion.
“We can always do better. ... But generally, inspiration, and what they can experience in experiential travel is what people travel for.”
In fact, he added, Louisiana has had six years in a row of growth in travel.
“As tourism professionals, our job is to story tell and paint a picture of what can be experienced in our area,” Ben said. “And fortunately, we have a great product — food, music and culture that people want to come see.”