River Parish Tourism, A New Day …a New Way

Despite the closing of attractions and alterations to business procedures, tourism officials found creative ways to market all the area has to offer – including a complete rebrand of the region.

While the world got put on “PAUSE,” Buddy Boe and the staff at River Parishes Tourist Commission took a strategic, proactive approach toward promoting the region during this time of crisis. The Port of South Louisiana is located along the beautiful, scenic Mississippi River which is the backdrop for many attractions’ tourists visit on a normal day. A slow stroll through the River Region would have to be re-designed.

Within hours of Governor John Bel Edwards’ statewide shutdown order, the Tourist Commission cultivated several initiatives to aid and support essential businesses. This included plans of action for preparing and promoting closed tourism attractions for when restrictions were lifted, as well as establishing modern methods of introducing stuck-at-home travel enthusiasts to the eclectic beauty and wonder of the region.

“We pivoted and leaned into action,” said Boe, the Executive Director of the Tourist Commission, of actions taken right after the shutdown. “Once we made the decision to work from home, we knew the first thing we had to do was send as much business as possible to local restaurants and other operating businesses that needed support. So, where we once always looked outward to attract attention to the area, we instantly swung that in the opposite direction to inward marketing – marketing local shops and restaurants to patrons within the three River Parishes.”

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Less than 72 hours after Louisiana’s mandatory stay-at-home order, the River Parishes Tourist Commission launched the website, TasteTheRiverParishes.com. Updated daily, the site provides parish-by-parish listings of open restaurants, adjusted hours of operation, adjusted menus and links to restaurants’ individual websites. Additionally, several local chefs hosted Facebook Live Cooking Demonstrations that were presented on TasteTheRiverParishes.com.

Because this new website became such a trusted source of information for locals looking to order out, Boe estimates the Tourist Commission established a connection with roughly 40 restaurants it didn’t previously have a relationship with.

For tourism entities like plantations and swamp tours that couldn’t operate because of COVID-19, the Tourism Commission developed strategic digital marketing plans to reach future travelers stuck at home. The trick in all this, Boe said, is that some places didn’t have up-to-date multimedia to source, while others didn’t have any multimedia at all.   

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To combat that issue, the Commission partnered with those attractions and businesses to film and photograph brand-new material – much of which was featured on the website StreaminOnTheRiver.com, which the RPTC launched in May for National Travel and Tourism Week. On the website, visitors could take a 7-day virtual vacation in the River Parishes, complete with dinner and musical entertainment.

“Our job is to promote,” Boe said, “and without a digital presence, it’s almost impossible for us to market. No one was in a hotel looking at rack cards. Hardly anybody was at the airport looking at billboards. They were home, and so to reach them, you had to and will have to keep producing digital content and delivering it to the visitor in a targeted fashion.

“Everything on both sides of the equation will continue to be strategic,” Boe continued. “Travelers will be more strategic in how they spend their travel money, and doing it in places they feel safe. And therefore, we will have to be strategic in how we promote the area and attract visitors.”

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Last but not least, Boe and his team accelerated the region’s rebrand – “Louisiana’s River Parishes” – so that its reveal would coincide with the gradual reopening of tourist attractions in July. The new slogan, featured in all new advertising and promotion materials, replaces the two-decade-old slogan, “New Orleans Plantation Country.”

Underneath this new universal name umbrella, the Commission also released specific “Sub-Brands” for the area tailored to a visitor’s specific interest. These include: New Orleans Swamp Country, Bonfire Country, Outdoor Adventures, The Andouille Trail, and New Orleans Plantation Country, among others.

Port of South Louisiana, Executive Director and River Region Tourism Commission Member, Paul Aucoin, “Our river is what makes us special.  Our landscape is one of the most beautiful in the world.  I look forward to the day when visitors and locals can enjoy an airboat tour, a bonfire gathering, a tour of our history or a night of fine Cajun cuisine.  But, until then, we can enjoy those sights virtually at home with our families. The River Parishes are special, no matter where you are.”

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