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Cannabis legal? Movie tax credits? Louisiana gubernatorial candidates show how to boost tourism


Reducing crime, retaining tax breaks for film production and legalizing marijuana are ways Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates have said the state can boost its tourism industry.

Six of the seven major gubernatorial candidates on Thursday spoke to the Louisiana Travel Association at the group’s convention in Baton Rouge. Attorney General Jeff Landry, the frontrunner in the governor’s race, did not attend.

Tourism and travel are vital to Louisiana’s economy as one of the largest industries in the state. It is the fourth largest employer and generated $17.1 billion in visitor spending in 2022. According to the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. Tourism also generated $1.9 billion in tax revenues last year.

Here are the ways the gubernatorial candidates have proposed to improve tourism:

State Rep. Richard Nelson, Republican

Nelson supports legalizing recreational marijuana, which he believes will attract more visitors, especially if Louisiana is the only state in the Deep South to do so. He also said that the “culture wars” — proposals to restrict the LGBTQ+ community — are “harming tourism” and hurting Louisiana’s travel industry.

“I’ve tried to stay away from the culture wars,” said the Mandeville Rep. during the Louisiana legislative session. Conservative lawmakers have proposed some bills to limit the rights of gay and transgender children.

Nelson voted against a so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill to ban discussions of sexual orientation and gender in K-12 classrooms, refusing to try to override Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto of the measure. But Nelson supported a proposal to deny transgender youth access to gender-affirming health care.

Trade lobbyist Stephen Wagesback, republican

Waguespack was one of several candidates who said lowering Louisiana’s crime rate would help the tourism industry. He said the Louisiana State Police had “lost” 200 officers, and that their ranks needed to grow back to sustainable levels.

Waguespack said it will also support local law enforcement by providing more body cameras and license plate readers. He is also in favor of placing more cameras accessible to law enforcement in public places where festivals and other large events are held.

Former General Counsel to former Governor Bobby Jindal, Wagesback commended the role he played in making sure that… New Orleans has retained its professional basketball franchise in the city. Jindal management helped He signed an agreement with the NBA in 2012 That kept the Hornets – now Pelicans – in Louisiana.

Attorney Hunter Lundy, Independent

Lundy did not speak directly about how he deals with the tourism industry, although he did his best to say he did not support legalizing cannabis for recreational use.

Lake Charles’ attorney said he supports raising the Louisiana minimum wage, though he didn’t provide details on how much he’d like to see raised. He also said he would be open to making exceptions to raise the minimum wage for certain types of companies, including those in the agricultural and hospitality sectors.

Treasury Secretary John Schroeder, Republican

Schroeder said he would “not shut down businesses” as governor — likely a reference to restrictions Gov. John Bel Edwards put in place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 has had a particularly harsh impact on tourism. The state’s travel industry has yet to fully recover from the blow it took when people canceled vacations and conferences during the pandemic. Louisiana will receive 42.6 million visitors in 2022. Which is still down from the 53 million visitors that came before the pandemic in 2019.

Schroeder boasted of his record as a treasurer in the state administration Main Street Revitalization Scholarship Programwith the aim of helping small businesses recover from the losses of COVID-19.

State Senator Sharon Hewitt, Republican

As governor, Hewitt would continue to support the lucrative and sometimes controversial state Movie Tax Credit ProgramState resources are used to lower the costs of film and television production in Louisiana. She said Louisiana’s presence in movies and TV shows increases the likelihood that people will want to visit the state.

It’s “a great opportunity to showcase our case,” Hewitt said.

The Slidell state senator also believes that the state of Louisiana should invest more money in airport infrastructure. She described New Orleans’ new airport as “beautiful” but still difficult to access from the ground. Officials said the ramps from Interstate 10 to Armstrong Airport, which was completed in 2017, are expected to be used before the Thanksgiving travel holiday.

Former State Transportation Secretary Sean Wilson, Democrat

In an interview, Wilson said he would protect and stabilize local tourism board funds across the state, called foundation funds. He also said he was interested in attracting tourism-related businesses to Louisiana, such as “digital convention” companies.

The Democrat also wants to focus more funding and efforts from the Louisiana Economic Development Agency on businesses already operating in the state. Many of those resources are currently being spent trying to attract out-of-state businesses to Louisiana.


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