A Few Minutes with… Ben Berthelot

POSITION: President and CEO of the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission.

AGE: 38.

Berthelot, a Lafayette native, has been in his job for about 1½ years. He started his career as a youth marketing manager at Lafayette Coca-Cola Bottling Co. After that, he served as assistant to the city-parish president and later as director for community development for the city-parish government.

How many visitors does Lafayette usually receive for Mardi Gras and is that number expected to rise this year?

The latest numbers we have are from a 2010 economic impact study in Lafayette Parish that said over 272,000 people viewed each individual parade that year. Collectively, our tourism numbers have grown since 2010, and I believe the Mardi Gras numbers have grown as well. The state Office of Tourism has done well advertising for Mardi Gras across the state, and we’re hoping to benefit from that added promotion.

What is the impact of Mardi Gras on the Lafayette economy?

Referring to that same study, the average parade attendee spent $370 to celebrate Mardi Gras, for total expenditures of over $100 million.

How do those numbers stack up against New Orleans and Baton Rouge?

I’m not sure. We refer to ourselves as the second largest Mardi Gras in the state, of course second to New Orleans.

How is the Lafayette Mardi Gras different from the New Orleans festivities?

We market ours as a family-friendly Mardi Gras, and I think we’re always able to deliver that. Our local police and government do an excellent job ensuring the safety of all the visitors here for Mardi Gras. One of the great things about Mardi Gras in Lafayette Parish is you’re only 30 minutes or so away from a totally different type of Mardi Gras celebration, which would be the courir de Mardi Gras.

What’s your favorite Mardi Gras tradition?

I just enjoy going down and watching the parades with my family. I have a 2-month-old son, and I’m looking forward to him experiencing his Mardi Gras for the first time. We normally gather together on Johnston Street near Blackham Coliseum.

Mike Francingues, special to The Advocate