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Mar 8, 2012 6:43 PM by Herbie Smith

The final round of the Louisiana Business Challenge

High school students from across the state spent Thursday morning on U-L Lafayette's campus competing in the Louisiana Business Challenge. After months of competing, they're in the final round. Six groups are standing before a panel of judges presenting their business plans to boost Louisiana tourism through social media as part of the state's bicentennial celebration.

Some groups are using phone applications to attract tourists. Mya Lagrange and her group created websites through social media sites to promote the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. " We plan on friending people in Louisiana and following people who are from out of state," Langrange said.

UL instructor Dionne Green is one of the judges. She says so far all of the groups have presented great business plans, but there are certain qualities they look for when choosing a winner. "We're looking for ideas that are creative, innovative, and something that hasn't been done before. We want to see ideas that can go viral in terms of social media," Green said.

According to the Louisiana Office of Tourism, more than 800 million dollars is generated a year in tax revenues from the tourism industry. The state hosts about 24 million tourists each year, which helps sustain more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. Because of these reasons, Green says it's vital to continue to find new ways to attract tourists. "Globalization and the internet have clearly changed the way we do business. Social media is the new way to find people. Facebook has 845,000,000 users and social media allows us to reach those individuals with a click of a button."

Winners will be announced on Friday. Winners will also receive scholarships and the state may use their business plan.

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