SHREVEPORT, La. - The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Louisiana’s tourism industry hard. The two-month shut down has cost many millions of dollars.
Shreveport-Bossier Tourism Bureau president, Stacy Brown says Louisiana travel is down $220 million. This is an 84 percent decline from last year.
She says Shreveport-Bossier lost at least $33 million. And that's just conventions, sporting events and group tours alone.
"That's not including the events that have had to cancel, the people who have canceled their regular vacation, and the people who were going to come to the casinos or the aquarium,” Brown said. “All those people that ended up cancelling, that's not including all of them. We've seen 50 percent of our jobs in the hospitality industry furloughed."
A lot of businesses, including the Shreveport Aquarium are trying to bounce back. They’ve been open since Monday.
The general manager, Jason Coffel, says they started slow, but started to see an uptick in traffic toward the end of the week. And he expects a busy weekend.
This especially is good news since they had to close right in the middle of their peak season.
"Business like our spend a lot of the year in the red, hoping and praying for march to show up because spring break is key,” Coffel said. “So, March showed up. We were all excited and then COVID hit at the very exactly wrong day. But nobody asked our permission. So at this point you make lemonade out of lemons."
The Aquarium is requiring everyone over five to wear a mask and purchase their tickets online.
This is just one of the adjustments in attempt to keep tourism alive during and after the pandemic.
Events that usually attract a lot of people are being done differently. The Hot Air Balloon Festival will not be a gathering, but they will take the balloons out to the community. They're also bringing in new events like the Fair Food Drive-in, which is extended to this weekend.
Brown says as more plans are made, she's very optimistic for the future.
"An indicator of that is our Expedia bookings. So they are down for May and June,” Brown explained. “They're getting much better for July, even better for August. Then for September, October, we're actually seeing interest above what we saw last year. So people are ready to come back to our area. We're working to make sure we can do that safely."
According to a hotel industry estimate, Louisiana has lost more than 40 percent of hotel-supported jobs,