Anyone who’s been around Baton Rouge for a while has noticed the amazing transformation of its downtown over the past 30 years. it’s a transformation that has come in large part from the planning and leadership of the Downtown Development District.
In that time, the capital city has also seen growth and transformation in its hospitality and tourism sector, which is largely, though not exclusively, concentrated downtown.
In recent months, the organization that oversees the tourism and hospitality sector – Visit Baton Rouge – and the DDD have both come under new leadership by a new generation of women, who are bringing new ideas and creative vision for growing and reimagining Baton Rouge’s downtown and its tourism industry.
Whitney Hoffman Sayal is Executive Director of the Downtown Development District, a special taxing district in Baton Rouge that includes Spanish Town, Beauregard Town, and the Central Business District.
The DDD was created in 1987 and works to support the district, using community-driven master plans and economic incentives to help businesses and nonprofit philanthropic organizations in their development and entrepreneurship efforts.
Whitney had big shoes to fill when she took over in 2022 after a national search to replace the late Davis Rhorer its founding executive director. But then, she was a natural, having worked at the DDD under Davis for eight years. Whitney is a certified planner with a master’s in landscape architecture from the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.
Jill Kidder is President and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, the official tourism and marketing agency for the city-parish. Jill is also a newcomer to this high-profile position; she took over from long-time leader Paul Arrigo in 2022. But Jill is no stranger to the industry. She has 37 years experience in the hospitality sector and has lobbied for the industry at the state capitol and in Washington DC. She comes to her new position after 15 years with the Louisiana Travel Association, where she spent the past five as its president and CEO.
Women in leadership positions, guiding a major American city with a storied history into a multi-cultural and multi-revenue future. Believe it or not, yes, it’s Baton Rouge!
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard. Photos by Erik Otts.