With New Branding To ‘Feed Your Soul,’ Louisiana Comes To Toronto

with Kerry Sharpe

Joanne Scalamogna (L), Canadian representative, Louisiana Office of Tourism, with Doug Bourgeois.

L-R: Jo Banner, New Orleans Plantation Country;
Megan Ryburn, Louisiana Office of Tourism;
Christy Lohnmann, Visit Baton Rouge.

Tina is getting in the Cajun spirit!

Hosting a lunch at Ruth’s Chris in downtown Toronto was just one of many ways the representatives visiting from Louisiana Tourism – together with partners from New Orleans Plantation Country, Visit Baton Rouge and the Lafayette CVC – celebrated the strong connection that exists between their state and Canada.

Ruth’s Chris, you see, was founded by Ruth Fertel in New Orleans. But it was the advertising mind of St. Catharines native Lana Duke – who, as a franchisee, brought the chain to Toronto 22 years ago – that helped Fertel take it from one steakhouse in Louisiana to an international brand.

Needless to say, feeding you is one of the many things that Louisiana does very, very well. So Ruth’s Chris was a fitting place to learn about the state’s tourism rebranding to ‘Feed Your Soul,’ rolled out earlier this year.

“Our new branding is all about that special feeling that we think you get in Louisiana,” said Doug Bourgeois, assistant secretary, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism for the State of Louisiana. “We live for our music, we live for our culture, and we especially live for our food, and so when we started thinking about rebranding our state, we looked at who we were.”

As the state’s number one market, it’s no surprise that Louisiana Tourism is here in Canada. In 2017, Louisiana welcomed more than 188,000 Canadians –a solid 30% of total international visitors – and we spent over $33 million during our visits, up 10.8% over 2016.

“Canada has always been number one for us,” said Bourgeois. “When I first started [in tourism] in 2000, even when the Canadian dollar was not so good, we had record numbers of Canadians come [visit]. Throughout the last few years, we’ve branched off in different markets with Brand USA, trying some new things, but we’re definitely coming back strong and trying to invest heavily in Canada. It’s just natural for us, there’s a great connection.”

Further emphasizing our shared bonds, Bourgeois mentioned the Mississippi River – “it starts in Canada and ends in Louisiana, or starts in Louisiana and ends in Canada, whatever itinerary you’re taking.”

There’s lots going on in the state and on the river. A highlight is Viking River Cruises agreeing to build two ships in Louisiana that will be offering a new option for your river cruise clients “within the next three to five years,” according to Bourgeois. There was also the recent announcement from Disney Cruise Line that it will begin sailing out of New Orleans in 2020.

When it comes to feeding souls, Bourgeois says Louisiana has few equals. He talks about “that special feeling you get when you take a bite of a nice, warm, spicy gumbo; or when you walk the halls of the municipal auditorium in Shreveport where the phrase ‘Elvis has left the building’ originated; or when you’re up in northeast Louisiana, in Poverty Point, and you walk the land where a civilization existed before the pyramids. Then you go down to Plantation Country where you can walk the halls of historic places that have stories of triumph and stories of tragedy. It’s the things that touch you deep inside – whether it’s food, music or history.”

Well said, Mr. Bourgeois. And Louisiana certainly has those things in spades.

Kerry Sharpe

Kerry Sharpe Columnist

Having worked in travel for the last 16 years, Kerry has experience covering the industry as media, as well as being under its lens when she worked for Thomas Cook, TravelBrands and itravel2000. A new mom, Kerry recently returned to the workforce and when she’s not chasing after her daughter, you’ll see her out and about covering industry events alongside her new BFF Tina the Travel Agent.

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