Cajun Coast presented top honors at tourism summit

The Cajun Coast Visitors & Convention Bureau was awarded the “Outstanding CVB of the Year” for 2011-2012 Jan. 24 at the Louisiana Lt. Governor’s Tourism Summit in Lake Charles.

The Cajun Coast was selected out of a category of tourism bureaus with budgets of $250,000 to $750,000.

The CCVCB had a tumultuous 12 month period – going from the highest high to the lowest low. The bureau earned “Outstanding CVB of the Year” based on the scope of work, and the uncharted waters that the bureau was forced to navigate after collapse of its nearly completed visitor’s center in Morgan City.

The bureau partnered with various organizations throughout St. Mary Parish over the past year including the Franklin Main Street annual Art Walk; the American Red Cross bicycle tour from Houston to New Orleans; the 76th annual Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival; the Franklin Main Street Merchant’s Association annual Harvest Moon Fest; Morgan City Main Street’s annual “Remember November” promotion; the Patterson Cypress Sawmill Festival; the Bayou Teche Bear Festival; and the Bayou Teche Wooden Boat Show.

The bureau placed advertising, engaged social media, assisted with funding and assisted whenever needed to insure the success of each event.

The bureau supported the Lt. Governor’s Bicentennial Celebration, Acadiana’s “Grand Reveil Acadien,” hosted the Bass Federation Central Division Tournament and the Fisher’s of Men Central States Fishing Tournament, welcoming over 300 fishermen from over many states to the waterways of the Cajun Coast.

Aside from working with the above mentioned events, four promotions including Tour du Teche, Voices of the Past, Eagle Expo and Tarzan, Lord of the Louisiana Jungle Fest were significant.

The bureau worked cooperatively with St. Martin Parish, St. Landry Parish, Iberia Parish and Tour du Teche staff on the 2nd annual Tour du Teche the first weekend in October. The Tour du Teche is a 127-mile paddle race along Bayou Teche from Port Barre to Berwick. The bureau worked with two cities in St. Mary Parish, Franklin and Berwick, to make the stages of the tour in St. Mary Parish successful, including attending meetings, promoting the event and assisting with funds for the local events.

The bureau encouraged three entities in Franklin to work together on a programming package called “Voices of the Past” which included the St. Mary Landmark’s Society and their annual Tour of Homes, the Franklin Cemetery Tour, organized by a private citizen, and the Techeland Arts Council’s “No Hitchin” storytelling theatrical production. The bureau created a weekend package that had the ability to generate overnight stays. The bureau was part of the steering committee that accomplished this.

In addition, the bureau packaged the events, designed and printed the brochure, placed advertising, collected registration forms and fees, created mailing lists, placed online advertising, distributed press releases, sent constant contact emails, engaged social media and worked the day of the event for a successful event. Attendance at all three events were significant. The bureau received many positive comments from guests regarding the event that will help with future programming.

Eagle Expo is produced and promoted by the Cajun Coast. Eagle Expo is a bird-watching event held every February. The bureau applied for and received two grants, one from the Louisiana Office of Tourism and one from Louisiana Universities Marine Consortia (LUMCON). In addition, the bureau solicited funds from the private sector. The Cajun Coast received great publicity for the event that resulted in every boat tour filled to capacity.

The LUMCON grant provided funding for a student educational program called Save Our American Raptors (SOAR). SOAR’s presentation featured seven raptors. The bureau visited four junior high schools throughout the parish and added an extra day at the Patterson Civic Center for private schools and students that are home-schooled. SOAR was also featured on the Thursday evening of Eagle Expo for the general public. Over 1,000 students were part of the SOAR program. The event was very successful, in spite of the harsh weather conditions. Over 50 hotel rooms were booked and the economic impact to the community was over $109,000 at a time when business is traditionally slow.

In April 2012, the bureau organized the Tarzan, Lord of the Louisiana Jungle Festival. The first Tarzan movie filmed on location was filmed in Morgan City in 1917 starring Elmo Lincoln. Morgan City was selected for three reasons: the swamp looked like the jungles of Africa, there was a large population of African-American that could play Africans and Morgan City had a great railway system. Al Bohl, a resident of Shreveport, created a documentary on the filming of the first Tarzan movie. After meeting with Al and communicating with representatives of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’s organization, CCVCB organized an event to coincide with the premiere of the documentary and the reediting of the 1917 film. The bureau worked with the Louisiana State Museum in Patterson to host a temporary exhibit on the making of the first Tarzan film and Governor Bobby Jindal proclaimed Friday, April 13, 2012 as Tarzan, Lord of the Louisiana Jungle Day. While the event attracted a moderate number of people from out of state, the bureau garnered over $300,000 in free publicity as the story about the festival was featured by the Associated Press and was published in over 150 publications and related websites throughout the United States and abroad.

The bureau was in the process of building a new $3.7 million Welcome Center and Interpretive Facility in Morgan City. The bureau worked on the project for over nine years, bonding funds, applying for grants and capital outlay and being frugal with spending. When not working on promotion and publicity for the destination, the bureau researched and solicited quotes, bids and request for proposals for a variety of projects relative to the welcome center, in addition to having weekly site inspections on the building with the architect and the contractor.

On Thursday, June 14, 2012 at approximately 9 a.m. and only 45 days from completion, the building suffered a foundation failure. The building’s foundation failure was featured throughout the state on most major networks, newspapers and radio stations. It was also featured on the MSN search engine as “weird news.” Talk radio and social media were ruthless in their comments about the welcome center and interpretive facility. In spite of it all, the bureau is determined that it will get a building, that the reasons for building the Welcome Center and Interpretive Facility are as valid today as they were nine years ago when the bureau started the process and that the bureau is resolute it will turn a negative into a positive along the way.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

Franklin Banner-Tribune
P.O. Box 566, Franklin, LA 70538
Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

Morgan City Daily Review
P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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