2020 Annual Report Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau

Year in Review

The year 2020 started with such promise. We were building strong momentum in the meetings market and working on bids. Sports tourism was growing and our Mardi Gras marketing campaign was wildly successful.

We hosted sporting events like the 2020 Showtime Boxing Match in January and LHSAA High School Wresting State Championships in February.

Mardi Gras was successful both parade weekends. We drew thousands of visitors from near and far. Our annual Red River Mardi Gras Bash was nearly sold out with group tours, girlfriend groups and motorcycle clubs yelling, “Throw me something, mister,” to passing floats on the riverfront.

Tourism was great.

But then our world literally ground to a halt mid-March. We were sent home to “flatten the curve” of the novel coronavirus. We were deflated literally and figuratively. It is estimated that the tourism industry, as a whole, lost approximately $1 trillion in economic impact and more than 100 million jobs worldwide. This ongoing global crisis continues to devastate one of the world’s largest industries.

Locally, tourism is still reeling from the ruinous effects of shuttered businesses, smaller conventions and ever-changing state mandates. From March to December 2020, 72 meetings and 59 sports events cancelled. Those groups would have spent an estimated $21 million in Shreveport-Bossier.

I’m proud that my team didn’t let the depressed economy deflate their sales efforts. The sports industry was able to rebound quicker since many outdoor events could occur. The sports sales team booked 114 sporting events in 2020 for that year and beyond to buoy tourism.

However, leisure tourism was the real MVP. Longwoods International produced monthly COVID-19 and American Travel Sentiment Research reports. Americans consistently said they wanted to get out and enjoy outdoor activities, travel closer to home, and visit places with clear safety and cleanliness protocols. Check, check, check for Shreveport-Bossier!

We launched Press Play in Shreveport-Bossier, a largely digital marketing campaign aimed at regional visitors. The results were incredible. We tracked 30,600 hotel room bookings that generated more than $4 million in hotel revenue as a direct result of advertising efforts. Visitors bought almost 4,000 airline tickets between May and December.

The convention department piggybacked off the success of the Press Play campaign and launched Press Play hotel packages hoping to lure deal-savvy travelers with hotel and attraction discounts. The sales team also hosted the Dallas Chapter of Meeting Planners International. For some of the planners, this was their first time to visit Shreveport-Bossier. The team spent a considerable amount of time “dialing for dollars,” as the vice president of sales likes to say, and was able to host several meeting planners serious about hosting their groups here.

Though 2020 didn’t go as we planned, we were able to pivot, rethink our sales strategies and work with clients for future bookings. No one can really say what the future holds, but as long as we can welcome visitors safely, we will. It pumps money into our local economy, keeps our locals working and benefits our local businesses.

The Convention/Tourism Sales Department is tasked with conducting sales missions, attending tradeshows, conducting site visits, building client relationships regionally and nationally, plus much more. Working closely with local hotel and business partners to attract meetings, conventions and tourism-related business to the market is key to success.

The current primary goal of the department is to return to pre Covid-19 production levels within three years.

Terms to Know

Conventions/Events booked are a direct result of the efforts of the sales team at the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau. These booked events are carefully cultivated through relationships from trade shows, direct sales and marketing leads.

Assisted conventions/events are repeat events that book for a second or more time in the destination.

Tourism bookings are group tours, defined as a group of 10 or more, that come from carefully cultivated relationships from trade show, direct sales and marketing leads.

Convention Sales Team Touches Hundreds of New, Old Clients

The sales team started 2020 with 203 booked meetings, conventions and group tours for 2020 and 37 conventions and bookings slated for 2021 and beyond.

We hosted our annual Red River Mardi Gras Bash, which attracted 450 people. Margaritaville Resort Casino partnered with us for the first time by bringing their VIP clients to enjoy the riverfront party held during the Krewe of Centaur parade.

Things changed mid-March when it was apparent that the novel coronavirus would persist, and the decision was made to shut the world down. We immediately saw mass meeting and group tour cancellations.

The team started reaching out to those planners with phone calls, emails, videos, and virtual meetings. They created touch points that reminded them that our sales team understood their situations. We also wanted planners to know that when the time was right, we were ready to rebook their meetings. It was extremely important to also talk to new potential clients about future bookings in Shreveport-Bossier.

We were able to host some site visits after the state reopened. Our team bid on the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Society of American Travel Writers. Fingers crossed, we will land SATW this year for 2022.

However, one of our home runs was landing the Meeting Planners International (MPI) – Dallas chapter. We hosted their 10-board member meeting at the Shreveport Convention Center in November. The group of meeting planners visited East Bank District and Plaza, downtown Shreveport and Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel and Casino. The meeting planners took advantage of the Lagniappe Reception provided compliments of the Louisiana Office of Tourism. It featured fresh seafood and a local musician. It felt good being able to support local musician Winston Hall.

Our team continues to sell Shreveport-Bossier to groups. We are touching hundreds of past and potentially new clients to pivot in this new era and bring conventions back to Shreveport-Bossier.

The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission is charged with attracting youth sports, amateur and professional sporting events to Shreveport-Bossier.

Terms to Know

Sports events booked are a direct result of the efforts generated by the sales team at the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission. These sporting events are carefully cultivated through relationships from trade shows, direct sales and marketing leads.

Outdoor Sports Big Winner in 2020

2020 was a year of unprecedented global challenges. The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission stepped up to the plate to be a part of tourism recovery for our community. COVID-19 safety precautions resulted in state mandates to close indoor venues, but many outdoor sports events were largely able to go on as planned. When the world shut down, the sports sales team shifted into high gear, working with our partners to book 114 local, regional, and national sporting events for 2020 and beyond. Those events represent 244,886 people enjoying sporting events in our community and utilizing 39,500 hotel room nights, a 36.7% increase over the previous year.

It’s clear that one of the core guiding principles of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission in 2020 was “teamwork.” When the global pandemic hit in March, our team rallied to find ways to safely bring select sporting events back to the market.

Before March, we successfully hosted events like the 2020 Showtime Boxing Match in January, LHSAA High School Wrestling State Championships in February, and the NJCAA Region XIV Basketball Tournament in March. During the pandemic our team booked one of the first indoor events, the Optimum Classic Bodybuilding event held in August at the Shreveport Convention Center. A similar event was cancelled in Puerto Rico and our team was able to partner with Robert “Superman” Blount with Fit for Life to quickly and safely merge the two events, allowing for a larger event with increased hotel room night bookings for the tourism industry.

One unique challenge presented in 2020 was our annual CenterPoint Energy Red River Balloon Rally. Instead of cancelling, our team was able to work with our incredible sponsors to bring the fun to locals by having the balloons fly over our community. Because of this great teamwork, we were the only festival in the nation that still had hot air balloons fly.

Together we will continue to navigate these extraordinary times and strive to fulfill our mission, keeping the safety of our athletes, coaches, spectators, and community at the heart of all our decisions.

The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission staff continues to “roll up our sleeves” and work hard for our community and our incredible partners every day. It is our honor to work alongside our great cities, parishes, and citizens.

The Communications Department manages marketing initiatives that generate booked hotel rooms and spur intent to travel for leisure visitors through social media, public relations, digital marketing, advertising, visitor center guest services, print collateral, and other tools.

Terms to Know

A session refers to the interactions a user has with a website during a specific period of time. All usage data (Screen Views, Events, E-commerce, etc.) is associated with a session.

Users are website visitors who have initiated at least one session during the date range.

Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

Communication Team Sells More Than 30,000 Hotel Rooms with New Press Play Marketing Campaign

2020 was a year of shock and awe. COVID-19 had us reeling from its health and economic rolling blows. It seemed the calamity would never end and, sadly, tourism took a huge blow by this incendiary virus.

The uncertainty of it all was a terrorizing force. However, the communications team rose up with an incredible strength to support our partners in the face of daily business closures, deserted hotels, closed meeting venues, and empty attractions.

As soon as Gov. John Bel Edwards gave the go on Phase 1, we launched Press Play in Shreveport-Bossier. This integrated marketing campaign was an invitation to play at our casinos, in our Sportsman’s Paradise, at our family attractions, and break away from the stress of 2020.

From May to July and September to December, we enticed visitors to book 30,600 hotel rooms that generated $4.1 million in revenue for our community. We generated sales of nearly 4,000 airline tickets to Shreveport-Bossier. The Boom or Bust Byway, a 136-mile self-driving tour through the countryside of Caddo, Bossier, Webster and Claiborne parishes, was a breakout marketing star, too, attracting people who wanted to be outside and safe.

The communications team used the limited resources left after massive budget cuts and multiplied them with their inventiveness and boundless talent. No money for a website redesign? No problem. The team used the tools available and did the work adding a new look, fresh copy and eye-catching photos to www.Shreveport-Bossier.org. Also check out www.20x49.com for a new look and great content.

Those are just a few ways the team supported our local businesses and tourism industry. We are taking that same energy into 2021, because we will not let COVID-19 rock us with so many in our industry depending on us.