A Picture Perfect Destination: How to Market Your Region as a Film Location, with Willma Harvey

Episode 300

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Willma Harvey has more than 25 years experience in the tourism industry. She is Director of Sales and Business Development for River Parishes Tourist Commission in Louisiana. Proud to be born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Willma is passionate about her region and promoting destinations. She has her Master’s Degree in English and is currently collaborating with movie and film industry professionals in her position as Director of Sales and Business Development.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Willma Harvey, Director of Sales and Business Development for River Parishes Tourist Commission in Louisiana. She shares the story of over 25 years in the tourism industry and walks us through her region’s decision to change their brand from Plantation Country to River Parishes. Wilma also shows us why it is essential to know what is indigenous to your region and how leaning into it will help your destination stand out from competitors. We also discuss a creative collaboration that Willma started recently, and she gives us a great recipe for setting successful collaborations.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Willma’s journey in the travel and tourism industry, including her role as the first eco-tourism sales manager in the United States
  • Willma’s experiences in creating innovative experiences that attract new visitors to her region
  • Some of the cutting-edge sustainable and wildlife events that Wilma has organized
  • Why it’s important to know what your competitors offer visitors
  • How they capitalize on the elements indigenous to the River Parishes Tourist Commission region
  • Why they decided to rebrand their destination in 2020 in the wake of the movement against social injustice in the US
  • The project on developing policies and procedures for film and movies that Willma is excited about right now and how the interest in the River Parishes region as a filming destination developed over the years
  • The coopetition tour encompassing several neighboring parishes that Willma was excited to be part of recently

Understanding Your Competitors’ Offer

Willma shares why she makes it a priority to know what her competitors have to offer visitors. She shares her in-depth knowledge of the Deep South coastal regions and the various tourism products in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. She outlines how that knowledge allows her to offer tour operators, or meeting planners, a great product because she knows how to collaborate with local partners (and competitors) for the visitors’ benefit.

Moving Through Challenges

We discuss a recent challenge that Willma’s team in Louisiana had to work through in making the difficult decision to change their brand from Plantation Country to River Parishes. Willma explains why it was such a big challenge but also why they viewed it as an inevitable change they would have to make. She shares why they decided to move quickly rather than go through a long brand analysis process and whether they got any pushback from local people on the rebrand.

Your Destination in a Movie

The Deep South has always been popular as a movie destination. Willma describes some of the film and TV collaborations she has been involved with in the River Parishes region. She explains the importance of building relationships with key players to ensure that your region stays top of mind when they’re searching for the right location for their next project.

Of course, if you’re hoping to attract Netflix or movie companies, you need to have the organizational infrastructure to make a collaboration run smoothly. Willma outlines her role in developing policies and procedures for films and movie companies coming to her area and explains why River Parishes decided they needed to have a strategic plan in place for dealing with those inquiries.


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