2005 TOURISM AND TRAVEL SUMMIT KEYNOTE ADDRESS -- 01/19/2005
LT. GOVERNOR MITCH LANDRIEU Shreveport, LA January 19, 2005 9:00 AM -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Welcome to the 2005 Louisiana Travel and Tourism Summit.
It is great to be here with you in Shreveport. I want to thank all of the staff at LTPA for putting together this great program.
I am sorry that Dan Mobley is leaving – you've done an outstanding job for the past three years, and you will be sorely missed. I'd also like you to join me in thanking Angèle Davis for her work at CRT and Scott Shalett, my Chief of Staff. We hired the best and the brightest and they are all doing a terrific job.
We are here to discuss ways to grow our industry in order to secure a more prosperous future for our children for generations to come.
One year ago, I was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor. Today I am more excited about our potential and optimistic about the state of the tourism industry as it exists today.
Over the last year we have successfully positioned Louisiana to lead a New South by adding economic value to culture, recreation and tourism.
We will grow further and faster if we continue to abide by the governing principals of our administration:
Continue to value diversity as a strength, not a weakness;
Continue to be entrepreneurial and continue to create new jobs in new ways;
Think of ourselves regionally to compete globally;
Add value to our raw talent and raw materials; and intellectual capital; and
Set high standards of excellence for all that we do. We should no longer stand for mediocrity. We have found new and exciting synergies, and we have accomplished much.
In October we defined our strategic vision and priorities – our Roadmap for Change.
We forged a historic partnership with Louisiana's military -- Last August I had the wonderful opportunity to bring a group of Louisiana entertainers to Fort Hood, Texas to send off almost 4,000 of Louisiana's sons and daughters as they completed their training. And with your help, during tourism week we collected over 25,000 pounds of non-perishable goods they took with them when they deployed to Iraq.
As many of you know, since deploying to Iraq late last year, Louisiana has lost 29 soldiers. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and everyday we hope for their safe return.
In December, we hosted Louisiana's first annual Cultural Economy Conference. National experts joined local leaders in arts, culture, business, economic and workforce development and academia to discuss how to structure and market Louisiana's creative and cultural industries. Our Cultural Economy can be one of the strongest components of the state's overall economy. You all know about how successful our film tax incentives have made our state as a film destination. We are going to keep growing that industry, and we are going to reclaim Louisiana's rightful place as the music capitol of the world.
Next week, Secretary Davis will travel to France to preview a wonderful movie called "Make It Funky," which is about Louisiana music and promotes our state's music at the MIDEM music conference. I might add - this movie was made possible because of Louisiana's tax credit program.
I have the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles next month to promote our film industry to top-level actors and producers who have expressed interest in doing business here. While I am there I will promote Louisiana music at the Grammy's - where six of our artists have been nominated and Louisiana native Jerry Lee Lewis will receive a lifetime achievement award. This is what we have to do: we have to export our talent so that we can import visitors.
Our food, our music, our art, our film, our culture - it is all part of Louisiana's Cultural Economy and we are going to keep working to make it stronger.
We have invested more dollars in direct advertising and launched a newly developed domestic and international marketing campaign based on strong research.
We have invested in the development of Eco-cultural and Heritage Tourism. We launched America's Wetland Birding trail to help eco-tourists explore some of Louisiana's most productive natural places along the coast and experience the best birding in the country.
Later this year, our Office of Tourism in conjunction with America's Wetland and Shell Oil will put special informational kiosks in visitor's centers and key locations all across the Louisiana/America's Wetlands trail.
We are reorganizing our operations to provide more efficiency and better accountability for the taxpayer's dollars we spend. Under Secretary Angèle Davis, we have brought the five agencies in the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism together to become more entrepreneurial and focused on results, so that we continue to produce the highest return on investment with our taxpayer dollars. You will hear from Angelé shortly about the transformation she is leading.
I know you agree with me that the progress Angèle has made in her first year is impressive and I thank you for the support you have given her and everyone at the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
I am pleased to stand before you today and declare tourism in Louisiana is strong and growing.
We are a $9.4 billion industry that helps to sustain more than 120,000 jobs and generate over $600 million in state and local tax dollars. We are Louisiana's second-largest industry behind health care.
Just last week the Travel Industry of America released third quarter numbers, and Louisiana continues to lead:
In the first half of 2004, the number of people taking overnight trips in Louisiana increased 8.7 percent – more than doubling a 3.2 percent national increase during the same period.
In the first eight months of 2004, air travel through Louisiana airports increased 6.9 percent statewide.
Louisiana's 5.4% increase in the number of rooms sold in 2004 over the previous year was the eighth highest increase among all states and third among southern states. This was Louisiana's highest increase since 2001 when the economy and 9/11 events flattened room demand. We are on our way back. We know that our Office of Tourism returns $15 for each dollar spent in advertising placement and production. This amounts to over $71 million in state tax revenue -- I don't know of any government entity that can claim such a return on investment.
Our industry can feel good about where we are, what we are doing and the results we are getting.
As we enter 2005, it is important that we continue to invest in our industry, it is essential that we recognize the challenges of the world we live in, and it is necessary that we continue to organize ourselves as a major player in the state's economic and business community. At the state and local level there will be many fights over funding sources– and we have two choices:
We can remain isolated as an industry and continue to defend against attempts to divert or reallocate funding sources that support us, or we can set an agenda for our industry that will help us continue to grow and unite to advocate for our priorities -- certainly, no other industry in Louisiana can boast a return on investment close to ours.
Certainly we should be able to make the case that stronger support for our industry will yield more tax revenue for the state.
This year our office is going to re-introduce legislation to lift the cap on tourism funding – you know how important this legislation is to the Louisiana Office of Tourism and to our entire industry. This year we can show the progress we have made and we can show the return on investment that the state is getting.
We need you to actively support this legislation, to help us make the case to your legislative delegation.
It is our responsibility to continue to build product and infrastructure that will grow our industry.
Our airports, our roads, our rails, our ports, our visitor's centers, our state parks - all of this makes up the transportation infrastructure that is crucial to Louisiana Tourism.
One important project that I have always supported is the completion of I-49. The drive market is one of the most crucial markets for Louisiana and the completion of I-49 is critically important to our success.
This tourism industry needs to work with Senators Landrieu and Vitter, Congressmen Boustany, and McCrery and State Representative Montgomery who are all working to keep the completion of I-49 a priority.
We must continue to lead in our communities. Every day decisions are made about the state's tourism infrastructure. Ask yourself: Are we at the table? Do we have a master plan or a list of our priorities? If we do, we haven't voiced it - If we don't, it is time we do.
I have asked Secretary Davis to make this a priority for 2005. She will lead an industry task force that will include state officials, local officials and representatives from the tourism industry. This task force will identify barriers and develop a comprehensive plan for our state's tourism infrastructure.
I am excited about the possibilities that 2005 promises. We owe it to the people of Louisiana to remain aggressive and to continue to build on the foundation our vibrant industry provides.
The strength of that foundation will help our industry grow in what promises to be a challenging year.
The state's finances will be difficult for the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
The Governor has asked us to identify significant savings in this year's current budget and 3 ½ percent in next year's budget. We are adjusting our department's spending, we are looking for savings and we are prioritizing programs in the department that are currently funded through the state's general fund. Make no mistake; this budget condition will require sacrifices and cuts in services throughout the department.
The Governor and the Commissioner of Administration are strong proponents of programmatic/performance based budgeting so we are allocating our resources and setting priorities. We are also looking to leverage public-private partnerships to identify other areas where we can bring resources in to complement our efforts.
We believe that this is an opportunity for our department and our industry– we know that we have a strong return on investment. There are several priorities that I have for 2005 that I think will help us remain aggressive and expand our tourism industry.
First: I want us to develop stronger partnerships with the Department of Economic Development and with business leaders around the state for international tourism and business development.
This year Congress approved an omnibus spending package that included $10 million to build upon current efforts to promote the United States as an international travel destination. As a top international destination Louisiana will benefit from this appropriation and our office of tourism under Secretary Davis is working with the Travel Industry of America to represent Louisiana's interests.
This year, I am particularly interested in developing stronger ties to Latin America.
Latin American business development through Mexico, Central America and South America is key to Louisiana's long-term economic development and international tourism success.
With limited resources available for tourism marketing, the Louisiana Office of Tourism continues to look for partnerships to market internationally. Coordination with the Ports of Louisiana and the Department of Economic Development are necessary for our success.
Another area I will focus my energy on this year is bringing more cruise ships to Louisiana. The cruise industry generates about $97 million a year in direct spending. From 1993 to 2003 cruise passenger travel in Louisiana increased from 80,000 to almost 700,000 passengers annually.
If we can continue to grow this industry we can bring bigger and more ships to Louisiana. I've committed to travel to Miami this year to meet with the Cruise Ship industry leaders. I'm going to let them know how important their business is to Louisiana Tourism. I will continue to work with the gaming industry to let them know they are important to us.
Second: I want us to be proactive as an industry when it comes to our funding priorities.
As I said earlier, we are going to re-introduce legislation to raise the cap on tourism funding. I am also concerned about the ever-growing dependence of our community leaders on the Hotel-Motel tax as a revenue source for non-tourism related matters.
For those of you following the Saints, you know the Hotel-Motel tax is an option being discussed as a funding source available to renovate the Superdome.
Now, we know in this room that it isn't just New Orleans or the Saints. Far too often we find ourselves defending our funding from those who seek to reallocate portions of the hotel-motel tax for other projects.
First, let me state that I happen to think it is important for the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana to have a professional NFL team and I commend the Governor for her efforts to work with the Saints and her dedication to finding the best solution to keep them here.
Regardless of my position – or anyone else's feelings about the Saints – it is incumbent upon our industry to be involved – or maybe even lead – the debate about increasing the hotel-motel tax. It is appropriate for this industry to stand up and say, if you are going to expect us to support a tax increase on our industry, than we need to get something out of it as well:
What if some of the revenues contributed to a convention and event incentive fund?
What kind of impact could that have on the state's economy?
How much more can we provide to the state's coffers if increased revenues are invested in building the tourism industry?
We know that we have a strong return on investment.
What if with a small portion of these funds, we could partner with Louisiana's top universities to create a research institute that would provide us with better data to make marketing and funding decisions?
It just might be worth it for us to support an increase that will directly invest back into making our industry stronger by giving us more tools to expand tourism – to put more heads in beds, as we like to say.
This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say we need to set an agenda for our industry based on the priorities and investments that will help us continue to grow - together we can create a grand vision about what is possible.
Third: I want our industry to be more active in education and workforce development.
Everybody in this room knows exactly how important this issue is to our industry and to the State of Louisiana. Anybody working on economic and job development today will tell you that in order to have long-term, sustainable economic growth in Louisiana we have got to address our education system.
Educating Louisiana's children to be productive members of our workforce is everybody's business in this state – every industry, every elected official, every business leader and every resident – we all have a stake in this.
Not only does the tourism industry offer entry level jobs for young people starting their careers, but in every job category there is a very clear career path that can take someone anywhere in the nation with a good paying job. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute the national average salary of a Hotel General Manager is $97,300.
During 2004, we brought together the hospitality industry in New Orleans and the leaders of the Orleans Parish School System to explore ways the school system and the hospitality industry can partner to reach kids and show them how to get on the career path that the tourism industry can provide. Our friends from Lafayette can tell you about the W.D. Smith Career Center's Academy of Hospitality, Travel and Tourism in Lafayette that in just 3 years has had more than 100 students take part in courses designed to make them ready to work in food service, hotels and tourist attractions.
Across the state we have travel and tourism academies in high schools. A number of community college hospitality programs as well as four-year degreed hospitality programs at UNO, SLU, Northwestern and Grambling are also available to those who want to work in the hospitality industry. Louisiana's path to a stronger economy is through education and workforce development and as an industry that continues to grow, it is our responsibility to be active in this important issue. I challenge each of you today to partner with our schools in order to achieve success in this area.
Fourth: It is time for us to address diversity in management and leadership of the tourism industry. As we address workforce development it is very important to me that we address an issue that I feel strongly about – diversity at the management and executive level in the tourism industry.
Our diversity in Louisiana is a key part of our economic growth and the product we offer to our visitors.
I'm not talking about quotas or set-asides or mandates; however, I believe that we have got to be serious about expanding opportunities for women and people of color when it comes to management positions, purchasing and vendor support.
As Louisiana lays claim to becoming a leader of the New South this is an issue that we must address at the highest levels of our industry.
One of the initiatives the Lieutenant Governor's office has undertaken is to sponsor seminars for small business owners to better prepare them to do business with the state. We have done two of them so far - one in New Orleans and one in Ruston. These seminars have been very successful in helping small businesses network and learn of opportunities. We learned that much of what we can do in this area is link people up and help them identify opportunities for themselves – everyday we try to be facilitators.
This year I will personally chair a task force to identify ways we can diversify and expand the opportunities that the tourism industry provides for everyone in Louisiana.
Fifth: I want us to promote Louisiana to Louisiana.
One of the best experiences the job of Lieutenant Governor provides is that I get feedback from national and international community, political, business and tourism leaders. Louisiana always receives great marks.
Later you will see our new ad campaign. Based on the findings from focus groups and statistical research conducted in target markets across the South, our campaign captures what is so special about Louisiana's culture and what is so unique about our people and our communities.
Our campaign will sell Louisiana as the adventure people are looking for – a musical adventure, an outdoor adventure, a family and sporting adventure – or just a plain old good time that a traveler is looking for to escape from the grind of their day.
I am so excited about what we were able to capture with this campaign. I'm also proud to announce that all of the musicians and actors hired for these ads are from Louisiana. The Louisiana Office of Tourism is investing in Louisiana's Cultural Economy.
This year I want to begin to address a problem I see in Louisiana – We hear it all the time, cynicism and pessimism are barriers that prevent Louisiana from moving forward. Well, I like to live my life on the optimistic side of the issues we face.
I see great things in the future, I see our industry poised to expand and have an even greater impact on our economy.
I see the impact we can have across the state if we get more involved in our communities.
I see the wonderful assets that we have and the greatness of our people.
I am thrilled about the possibility of what can be.
This year we are going to shine a bright light on Louisiana. In March our office will travel the state to promote everything from our new wetlands and birding trail to our state parks and the Audubon Golf trail. We will meet with the business and elected leaders in the state and we will show Louisiana how special Louisiana is and can be.
We will ask you to help us organize events in your communities, so get ready.
We also are going to revisit the ban on advertising in Louisiana. We are one of only two states that prohibit in-state advertising.
In conclusion, I want you to know how proud I am of our accomplishments in 2004 and how honored I feel to represent you, your hopes, your ideas, and your dreams as well as the hopes, ideas and dreams of the people of Louisiana who know that we have exceptional cultural and natural resources, unparalleled raw talent and world-class adventures, all wrapped into one place.
I know that we will rise to the challenges before us.
I'm confident that our efforts will yield positive results for years to come.
America and the world will soon discover that Louisiana is prepared to transform herself from being a follower to a leader.