Trail Development Adds to Economy

Dora Ann Hatch  |  3/5/2014 12:47:57 AM

Dora Ann Hatch is the agritourism coordinator for the LSU AgCenter.

The tourism industry in Louisiana boasts many trails: culinary, hiking, paddling, golf, sugar, holiday lights, nature, birding, recreational, history, black history and creole, just to name a few. What all these trails have in common is that they direct tourists to destinations. The economic impacts on communities where these trails are located oftentimes are not documented, but people who travel tend to spend money on food, lodging and other items.

So, would trail development be right for you and your community? We have lots to see in Louisiana, but we need to organize destinations and events and publicize them. Trails can be year-round or for a specific time period. They can focus on one theme or themes with a logical relationship to each other.

According to the Louisiana Office of Tourism, “Independent-minded, digital-savvy twenty- and- thirty year olds are hitting the road in increasing numbers,” and that’s good news for those who want to create trails. Translated, that means young people want to travel by car to destinations and they are bringing their digital devices with them. By sharing their experiences on Facebook or Twitter they are free publicity and in some cases a personal endorsement for places they visit.

Many states, including our own, have designated trails that are highly publicized by tourism offices. But, there are many more exciting places that will remain unnoticed unless venue owners decide to create the trail themselves. To accomplish this, one must learn about trail development. There are two out-of-state trails that provide good information on trail development.

The first trail is a wine trail located between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Orbitz Travel lists the “Fredericksburg Wine Road 290” as the second most visited wine region in the United States, second only to Napa Valley. The “Fredericksburg Wine Road 290” includes 13 wineries each offering something unique for the tourist and when packaged together become a destination.

To encourage tourists to visit again and again, they also sponsor themed venues: Ragin' Cajun Shrimp Fest, Vino and Pasta and Chili and Chillin’ to name a few. Each winery participates at some level for all of these special events.

The second trail is the Arts and Eats trail in Michigan. This trail is open only two days out of the year and yet attracts many tourists. It’s self-guided, has excellent road signage and takes tourists through several counties to visit working farms. The trail allows the traveler to see where food and fiber are grown and then suggests eateries where you can experience the local grown foods. Visit www.artsandeats.org for more information.

Perhaps it’s time for you to consider a trail. As the agritourism coordinator with the LSU AgCenter, I’m available to assist you with agricultural related trails. Contact me for any information you may need.

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