New Orleans Tourism/Hospitality Industry Update Three Years after Katrina
August 21, 2008

The comeback of New Orleans’ tourism industry is one of the success stories of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Tourism is the largest employer in the area and the second largest industry in the state of Louisiana. It includes chefs, street performers, musicians, bellmen, artists, housekeepers, sales and marketing professionals, drivers, florists, shop owners, hotels, restaurants, retail, sporting arenas, music venues, museums, galleries, theaters, destination management companies, riverboats, casino gaming and tour operators.

Tourism generates $5 billion in visitor spending and $250-300 million in tax revenues for New Orleans. Sixty-nine thousand people from every neighborhood in the city currently depend on the hospitality industry for their paycheck. Tourism accounts for 35 percent of the City of New Orleans’ annual operating budget - $210 million paying for jobs, safety and transit, affecting every level of government service and every citizen.

Since Katrina, the hospitality industry has begun to repair the city’s damaged reputation and restore $3 billion in lost business through unprecedented levels of sales, marketing, public relations, advertising, re-branding and social advocacy.

Today, New Orleans as a tourist destination has a fresher product, cleaner streets, new attractions and hotels, more restaurants, record-breaking attendance at cultural festivals, and a renewed sense of hospitality. Among its many honors, the city was named as one of America's Favorite Cities in a 2007 and CNN Headline News poll. There truly has never been a better time to visit New Orleans.

In 2007 New Orleans hosted 7.1 million visitors who spent $4.8 billion, a 92 percent increase over the number of visitors in 2006 and not far from our pre-Katrina norm of 8.5 million visitors annually.

Local residents also play an important role in the success of the tourism industry. New Orleanians are turning out in record numbers to attend local festivals, visit museums, listen to live music, dine in restaurants, explore the French Quarter or shop on Magazine Street. We must never forget the authentic cultural treasure that we call home.

2008 has been an amazing year, with world-class events such as Allstate Sugar Bowl, BCS National Championship, NBA All Star Game, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Essence Fest, Satchmo Fest, and hundreds of conventions. The 25th annual French Quarter Festival in April 2008 had its highest attendance ever of 435,000.

The City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau worked together to host U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the North American Leaders’ Summit in April 2008. President Bush chose New Orleans for the Summit to showcase the city’s resurgence as a meeting destination.

In the fall of 2008, New Orleans will host prominent citywide conventions such as the 25,000-person American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, and the 12,000-person Starbucks Corporation Leadership Conference. While hosting meetings in New Orleans, many organizations are choosing to participate in “voluntourism” projects to give back to our community and accelerate neighborhood recovery.

Tens of thousands of art-lovers from around the world will come to New Orleans for Prospect.1, the largest biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the United States, on view November 1, 2008-January 18, 2009. It will feature the work of 81 international and regional artists in over 100,000 square feet of exhibition space located throughout the city.

In January 2009, New Orleans will host the annual conference of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). PCMA is the “Super Bowl” of the Convention and Meetings Industry, bringing over 4,000 of the top decision-makers and meeting planners who make over $40 billion of meeting commitments annually. They undoubtedly will be inspired to select New Orleans as a future destination.

The tourism industry is united. Leaders from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans Morial Convention Center, Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network, Louisiana Restaurant Association and the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association are committed to driving future success together.

Tourism is the economic engine of New Orleans and its continued success is critical for rebuilding. Every visitor becomes an ambassador for us and goes home to spread the word that New Orleans is a city where soul is waterproof … a place of hope, resilience and life.

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