By Leigh Guidry,
The Daily Advertiser (Reprinted with permission)
A group of photographers from China are seeing 15 areas of Louisiana in 10 days.
The 10 from Beijing started in New Orleans after their plane landed Sunday. By Friday, they were on a swamp tour in the Atchafalaya Basin, touring Vermilionville in Lafayette and learning about Tabasco at Avery Island — and that’s just one day.
The tour will wrap up Tuesday in Shreveport, but not until they’ve seen attractions big and small in Bossier, Lake Charles, Many, Natchitoches, Monroe and Ruston.
They’re taking in sights of unique architecture and landscapes like the Kisatchie National Forest and capturing them on Canon cameras.
Canon Inc. is sponsoring the trip, covering travel and equipment for the professional photographers.
“It was a chance for Canon to show off their new lenses and equipment and combine it with getting great shots of Louisiana,” said Barry Landry, director of communications for the Louisiana Office of Tourism. “When Canon called (with this idea) … it was a definite get for Louisiana.”
The Office of Tourism takes over when they get to the state, guiding and transporting them by charter bus from place to place.
Yao Han, 29, had never been to the Bayou State before. The only thing he knew about the state was related to New Orleans — sort of.
In China, Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants have “New Orleans chicken wings” accompanied by a sweet and spicy sauce, he explained.
For many there, that is the only impression they have of Louisiana, said Tyler Sun, public relations manager for East West Group.
Sun works with the Office of Tourism to coordinate such trips from China, which officials say is an expanding market for international tourists to Louisiana.
Han hasn’t had any chicken wings since he got to Louisiana, but he has been very happy with the food. He said Asian food and crawfish have been the best.
“I really like crawfish,” he said.
He got his fill at Crawfish Town USA for lunch Friday before touring Vermilionville Historic Village.
Louisiana’s signature daily rain hit as they embarked on the self-guided tour. But Han didn’t mind.
He said the humidity is worse in Beijing, plus pollution, making “the air” the biggest difference he’s found between Louisiana and China.
“The air is very clean (here),” Han said. “It’s much better.”
Plus, “after the rain you take good pictures,” he added.
He said the best photos he got were at Oak Alley Plantation. He’s been a photographer for five years.
“It’s a very beautiful avenue,” he said.
Sun said their photos will be used on websites and social media platforms.
“The photos introduce the product first and also the destination,” Sun said.
Vermilionville welcomes groups and individual international visitors regularly. The Office of Tourism handles ground transportation, and area convention and visitors bureaus get involved to find visitors lodging and set up the tours.
Kelly Strenge, vice president of media relations and special projects with the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, said area hotels and attractions are usually ready to help.
“Those who work with us know they’re going to get something back out of it,” Strenge said. “… Hosting journalists is a large return on investment.”
They publish articles and photos about Lafayette, and advertising on that scale would be too expensive for the Convention and Visitors Commission and similar groups.
“We could never afford that on our own,” she said.
And Louisiana marketing in other countries are mostly on a state-level, not for individual cities.
“Lafayette would never (be able to) pay for advertising in China,” she said.
But the photos taken Friday in the parish will reach potential visitors, and international tourist tend to stay longer and spend more when they travel to the U.S.
“When they publish their photographs, it’ll pique interest in traveling here,” Strenge said. “Most come in to New Orleans, but if they’re coming all that way they’re going to stay and travel other places.”