Mais Oui

Acadiana’s Growing Tourism Portfolio Nonprofits take the lead in developing important new assets for our region.

by Cherry Fisher May

Trends suggest 2016 will be the year Louisiana breaks through the 30 million threshold in visitor count. Tourism is big business for our state, and Acadiana ranks second only to New Orleans as the go-to place for those with Louisiana on their minds. With two new projects moving forward quickly, our region is also poised to ride the industry’s fastest-growing segments — adventure travel and cultural tourism — to new highs.

In December, Louisiana Swamp Base, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Evangeline Area Boy Scouts, purchased McGee’s Landing. Perched on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin, the Henderson landmark will be developed into a gateway and operations center for the program, which has already earned its rank among a handful of high-adventure scouting destinations in the U.S. Since the program’s launch in 2013, more than 1,000 scouts have explored the Basin on six-day, six-night, 61.6-mile canoe treks; an additional 75-mile trek comes online soon. With plans for a $30 million expansion to include a lodging and conference facility, Louisiana Swamp Base will also become a profit center for the local Boy Scout council and a new destination for the intrepid traveler.

In Arnaudville, St. Luke’s Hospital has sat vacant since 1990 but is only two votes away from becoming a French immersion campus and the latest cultural asset there. Officials in St. Landry and St. Martin parishes have finally worked through a tangle of jurisdictional issues and are poised for final approval in January. The vision, laid out in a business plan funded in part by the National

Endowment for the Arts and developed by the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, is for the campus to become the premier destination in the U.S. for French language immersion and cultural enrichment — an intimate setting where students, educators, business people, visitors and others will learn and speak the French language indigenous to the area through coursework and creative programming, while connecting with the people and environment.

Cultural and adventure tourists are among the most highly coveted in the industry. They tend to be affluent and educated, leave a lighter footprint and plan trips of a longer duration. By attracting them to Acadiana, these two projects will be important new assets in our economic diversification portfolio. Kudos to those with the vision and tenacity to bring it on.