Walter Pierce

La. tourism feeling recession pinch

by Walter Pierce

While Louisiana’s economy continues to outperform the nation, the effects of the recession are being felt in one of our biggest and most robust industries. The August issue of Louisiana Travel Pulse, produced by the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, suggests that the state’s hospitality sector is experiencing what Dr. Suzanne Cook, vice president of research for the U.S. Travel Association, calls “the new normal.”
Citing the Air Transport Association, Travel Pulse says June passenger revenue statewide for the largest U.S. airlines fell a precipitous 26 percent compared with June of 2008. That marks the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year declines. The number of passengers, however, is down only 6.5 percent, suggesting a drop-off mainly among big-spending business travelers.

Hotel occupancy through the first six months of 2009, compared to same period in 2008, is down nearly 9 percent. So too is the take at Louisiana’s river boat casinos, which account for the vast majority of gaming receipts (compared to Harrah’s in New Orleans and race track-based casinos): down 3.5 percent from last year. However, there were 288,000 visitors to state parks in the January-June period, outpacing the same period a year ago by almost 20 percent, evidence perhaps of tourists and residents alike being more budget-conscious about their recreation spending.

A bright note from the links: The Wetlands golf course, one of Lafayette’s public courses and also part of the 12-course Audubon Golf Trail scattered around the state, was the third busiest among member courses; duffers played about 17,000 rounds of golf at The Wetlands in the first six months of 2009, outpaced only by Audubon Park in New Orleans and Olde Oaks in Shreveport.