In the wake of disappointing attendance figures from 2019 Bayou Country Superfest, which returned to Tiger Stadium over Memorial Day weekend, Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo says it’s too soon to say whether his agency will pony up incentive money to help attract the music festival to Baton Rouge for 2020.
“That is a year-by-year decision and it’s way too soon to tell,” says Arrigo. “That takes four parties coming together—us, the state, the city and LSU—and we haven’t had any discussions like that yet.”
Visit Baton Rouge and the state Office of Tourism each contribute $350,000 to the festival’s owners, while the city-parish kicks in a 2% rebate of local sales tax on ticket purchases. LSU, meanwhile, eats some of the hefty expenses that come with hosting the music fest on campus.
Nevertheless, Arrigo, who was instrumental in landing the first Bayou Country Superfest in 2009, is far from down on the festival, which attracted just 50,000 or so attendees over the two days. In 2016, the three-day festival drew crowds of 100,000.
“I can tell you that even if the festival attendance was lighter this year our hotel occupancy rates for Saturday night were on par with where they were for the same night during the festival in 2016,” he says.
Some 83% of hotel rooms in East Baton Rouge Parish were occupied last Saturday night, compared to 84% on the Saturday night of the three-day festival in 2016.
More importantly, Arrigo says, in 2017 and 2018, when New Orleans played host to Bayou Country Super Fest, Saturday night occupancy rates over Memorial Day weekend in Baton Rouge didn’t even reach 60%.
“We’re considerably better off with it than without it, even in a down year,” he says.
Does the boost in hotel occupancy justify a $350,000 expenditure?
Arrigo thinks so.
“When the voters approved an increase in the hotel occupancy tax two years ago, they said they wanted to finance and support events like this through marketing efforts,” he says. “So that’s what we’re doing.”