Stay for the seafood: Partnering to support coastal economies during a pandemic

Dr. Emily Maung-Douglass, scientist and extension specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant, is our guest blogger this week. Enjoy!

Like many places along the coastal U.S., seafood and tourism are intrinsically linked in Louisiana. The name Louisiana itself conjures images of spending a morning’s adventure on a swamp boat tour, followed by an afternoon leisurely strolling down an allée of live oaks at a historic location, followed by feasting on delicious, fresh, local-caught seafood for dinner.

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic financially strained the state’s seafood and tourism sectors, which are normally multi-billion-dollar industries and economic drivers. Since the pandemic, seafood demand diminished due to declines in both restaurant patronage and at-home consumption, reducing income in all related industries. Prolonged closures and restricted travel during the pandemic have taken a toll on tourism-related income; the first quarter alone after the pandemic’s start saw a loss of $93M in state tax revenue related to travel.

Pandemic conditions have necessitated a quick pivot from these industries for their survival. Prior to the pandemic, the Louisiana Office of Tourism devoted 90 percent of its advertising to attracting out-of-state visitors. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, state government shifted its marketing efforts towards in-state tourism, a critical move for the intertwined fates of this sector and that of seafood.

Given the pandemic’s multi-faceted impact on many coastal business sectors and communities, creative and multi-partner solutions are arguably a best management practice for eliciting positive change during this time of uncertainty.

In this vein, Louisiana Sea Grant, the LSU AgCenter, and Louisiana Direct Seafood embarked on a joint venture, producing of a series of short videos promoting culinary tourism; local, nature-based tourism opportunities; and the state’s seafood industry.

Aimed at simultaneously educating and enticing viewers as they plan their next Louisiana seafood staycation, the three 3-minute videos in the Stay for the Seafood series focus on sharing what makes Louisiana seafood unique and sustainable, as well as spotlighting a diverse group of award-winning chefs serving this cuisine. What’s more, each video focuses on a different coastal region of the state. Capitalizing on the fact that nature-based tourism in the state has remained a relatively safe option for fun during the pandemic, local, nature-based tourism opportunities, such as guided historic and eco-tours, are also highlighted. Partnering with the owners and chefs of the featured restaurants, as well as the local tourism offices in Lake Charles, Jefferson Parish, and the TerrebonneLafourche area, has been key to the success of the videos which are at a combined total of more than 1,500 views since their launch in early 2021.

Viewers will hear their stomachs growl while watching Chef Lyle Broussard of  L’Auberge Casino’s Food & Brews prepare blackened catfish as he shares about the Catch and Cook program and inspiring natural beauty of the Lake Charles area. The 2019 crowned King of Louisiana Seafood, Chef Nathan Richard of Cuvée Wine Bar & Bistro, makes everyone feel at home on the bayou as he treats viewers to sights of fresh Louisiana seafood, the many outdoor festivals the Terrebonne and Lafourche area has to offer, as well as educates on fisheries management. In Jefferson Parish, Chef Mary Jo and Lisa Mosca, the mother and daughter duo behind Mosca’s, warm hearts with insights into their namesake restaurant, their famous seafood dishes, and the multitude of nature-based amusements in the surrounding area.

While everyday life for many people is slowly approaching normalcy as restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic begin to ease, continued efforts will likely be needed to help our coastal communities and their economies bounce back. Opportunities for partnership and shared growth during these unprecedented times are abundant—will you seize them as they arise to support your coastal community?

To view the entire Stay for the Seafood short video series,

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Sea Grant/LSU AgCenter

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