What's New in New Orleans' Hospitality Industry - December 2011

2011 has proven to be a prosperous and successful time in New Orleans' tourism industry, hosting major events and record-breaking festivals and conventions. In the first half of 2011, New Orleans welcomed 4.8 million visitors who spent $3.1 billion. Mardi Gras attendance exceeded one million revelers, French Quarter Festival brought in more visitors than ever before in its 28 year history and several groups, including the International Workboat Show, hit record-breaking attendance levels. New Orleans landmarks such as the Hotel Monteleone and the New Orleans Museum of Art celebrated monumental anniversaries, and the city welcomed back the Hyatt New Orleans Regency Hotel after a $275 million revitalization. In June, the RTA officially began construction on New Orleans' first new streetcar line since 2004, and in November New Orleans welcomed major cruise ships to the city, including Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, the largest cruise ship to call New Orleans its homeport. The recently-branded Mercedes-Benz Superdome transformed after another $85 million in renovations, and continues to welcome sports fans to the city through Champions Square, club XLIV and the newly-installed LED light system that illuminates New Orleans' skyline every night.

With these improvements and the recently-opened Concourse D at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, which provides visitors with a fresh and welcoming gateway to the city, New Orleans prepares for major sporting events in 2012, including the BCS National Championship, NCAA Men's Final Four and culminating with Super Bowl XLVII and the NCAA Women's Final Four in 2013. This is an unprecedented time in our city that will bring in more than $1 billion in economic impact over the next two years. In the spring of 2012, we look forward to welcoming the Society of Government Meeting Planners, Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association and celebrating the Louisiana's Bicentennial.  


  • New Orleans hosted 4.8 million visitors in the first half of 2011, an increase of 7.7% over the same period in 2010. These visitors spent a total of $3.1 billion, a boost of more than 10 percent over January - June 2010.
  • Founded in 1886, the historic Hotel Monteleone celebrated 125 years of hospitality in the French Quarter.

  • The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) celebrated its centennial in 2011. NOMA, located in City Park, houses more than 30,000 art objects encompassing 4,000 years of world art.

  • More than one million revelers, including thousands of Spring Break travelers, celebrated Mardi Gras 2011 in New Orleans. With parades culminating on Fat Tuesday, March 8, New Orleans area hotels and the CVB reported a virtually sold-out Mardi Gras weekend, and one of the largest festivities the city has seen in 25 years.

  • On March 11, the New Orleans VooDoo kicked off their season with the Arena Football League at the New Orleans Arena, marking the return of New Orleans' AFL team.

  • New Orleans City Park continues to make massive improvements to the 1,300 acre park. The City Park/Pepsi Tennis Center opened in late March and features 16 hard and 10 clay courts and a clubhouse with a pro shop, showers and a meeting room.

  • On April 7-10, French Quarter Festival presented by Capital One Bank celebrated its 28th anniversary with a record-breaking crowd of nearly 533,000 festival-goers over the four-day weekend.

  • The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell showcased seven-days of music April 29-May 1 and May 5-8. More than 400,000 Jazz Fest goers flocked to the Fair Grounds for the internationally renowned festival.

  • Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon was named the winner of the 2011 James Beard Awards' Best Chef: South category on May 9 in New York City. New Orleans Chefs Tory McPhail (Commander's Palace), Stephen Stryjewski and John Harris (Lilette) were three of five finalists nominated for this award.

  • The National World War II Museum achieved another milestone in its ongoing $300 million expansion project when the museum unveiled the $3 million John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion on June 4.

  • Grammy Award and Billboard Award-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, in partnership with the JW Marriott, opened the doors to Irvin Mayfield's I Club in July 2011.

  • Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans CVB, was appointed by Governor Bobby Jindal to the Louisiana State University (LSU) Board of Supervisors. The goal of the LSU Board of Supervisors is to provide leadership and support for the LSU System.

  • The $47 million New Orleans BioInnovation Center opened its doors in September to a new generation of innovators. Situated between the medical district and the downtown business district, the Center offers 66,000 square feet of state of the art wet-lab, office and conference space.

  • New Orleans welcomed more than 100 cast and crew members from The Addams Family to prepare for a tour that played in more than 30 cities across the United States and Canada. The musical comedy was the first Broadway production to launch a major, national tour in New Orleans. The Addams Family showcased its 10-performance run at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre September 15-24. Broadway Across America continued its season in New Orleans with Rock of Ages (Nov. 1-6) and Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific (Nov. 29-Dec. 4). Next up is Cirque Dreams Holidaze (Dec. 20-24), Blue Man Group ( Jan. 31-Feb. 5, 2012) and Disney's The Lion King (March 14-April 15, 2012).

  • On October 4, Governor Bobby Jindal joined Saints Owner Tom Benson and Ernst Leib, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA to announce a 10-year agreement reached between the NFL Saints and Mercedes-Benz USA to name the recently renovated New Orleans Superdome, the "Mercedes-Benz Superdome." The facility has completed an $85 million renovation; part of an overall $336 million renovation that has been taking place since 2006.

  • The Hyatt Regency New Orleans celebrated its grand re-opening on October 19, after a $275 million revitalization. Changes begin at the hotel's front door, which has been reconfigured and moved to Loyola Avenue. The hotel offers 1,193 contemporary guest rooms, new dining options, and 200,000 square feet of meeting and special event space, including two new 25,000-square-foot ballrooms and Borgne, a restaurant by Chef John Besh. With the opening of the Hyatt, New Orleans' hotel room count stands at 36,993.

  • Prospect.2 New Orleans, the second edition of the international contemporary art biennial held in New Orleans, is showcasing works of artists from nine countries at locations across the city October 22, 2011-January 29, 2012.

  • On October 27, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport celebrated the grand opening of Concourse D. The expansion adds six airline gates, doubling the capacity of the concourse. In total, the project cost an estimated $27 million.

  • Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas began docking in New Orleans on November 12, and offers seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean, accommodating 3,414 guests. This is the largest cruise ship to call New Orleans its homeport. The Carnival Elation began sailing from New Orleans on November 5. The ship is sailing year-round on four- and five-night cruises from New Orleans. As of November 13, the city is also the homeport to the Carnival Conquest.

  • The 38th Annual State Farm Bayou Classic® brought an average 200,000 visitors to New Orleans for the battle between Grambling State University and Southern University. This year's festivities included a Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Battle of the Bands and Game Day on November 26 when Grambling defeated Southern. It is estimated that Bayou Classic events bring in $30 million to the city.

  • New Orleans is preparing for several major bowl games. On December 17, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will kick off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and features the University of Louisiana at Lafayette vs. San Diego State University. Next up, on January 3, Virginia Tech takes on the University of Michigan for the 78th Annual Allstate® Sugar Bowl followed by the highly-anticipated match-up between Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama for the Allstate® BCS National Championship on January 9.

  • Throughout the month of December, locals and visitors are invited to participate in city-wide events as part of Christmas New Orleans Style. The celebration includes Papa Noel Hotel rates, traditional Reveillon Dinners, Caroling in Jackson Square, Celebration in the Oaks and several events from Canal Street: Home for the Holidays.

  • Formerly Hotel Le Cirqueon Lee Circle inthe Warehouse-Arts District, the Hotel Modern New Orleans opens its doors on December 16, as European hotelier Klaus Ortlieb brings his home-away-from-home sensibility to the New Orleans hotel scene. With no check-in desk, guests are greeted with complimentary drinks in the lobby lounge and escorted to one of the 135 comfortable rooms, just as if they were staying at a friend's guesthouse.

  • The Joy Theatre on Canal Street will reopen on December 29 as a live music and entertainment venue following a $5 million renovation.


City Awards

  • New Orleans scored high in the Travel + Leisure (T+L) magazine 2011 America's Favorite Cities survey. Frequent travelers voted New Orleans as the number one destination for live music/concerts and bands, wild weekends, cocktail hour, singles/bar scene, fine-dining restaurants, friendliest people, cafés, antique stores, flea markets and people-watching. T+L also found that New Orleanians are most proud of their city compared to residents of the other 34 cities in the survey.
  • Under30CEO named New Orleans number one on the list of Top 10 Cities for Young Entrepreneurs 2011, October 2011
  • New Orleans was listed asa top food and wine destination in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards, October 10,2011
  • Bleacher Report named New Orleans the "Best NFL City to Party In," October 2011
  • New Orleans ranked number three on TripAdvisor's® inaugural TripIndex, a cost comparison of 15 hotspots in the United States, making the city one of the top domestic deal destinations in the country, July 25, 2011
  • AAA South Magazine readers named New Orleans: Best large city for a weekend, Best Guys Getaway, Best Girls' Getaway, June 2011
  • New Orleans ranked seventh in TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice 2011 Best Destinations, May 2011
  • Travel + Leisure's online report named New Orleans' Garden District as one of America's Most Beautiful Landmarks, April 2011
  • Forbes named New Orleans the number one city in the country for "Brain Gain," noting that the city gained roughly 36,666 residents with college degrees within the past two years, February 2011
  • AOL Travel named New Orleans a top budget destination for 2011, January 2011

CVB Awards

  • The New Orleans CVB was once again recognized by its customers, more than 50,000 meeting planners, as one of the top five CVBs in the world with the prominent Gold Service Elite Award for 2011 from Meetings and Conventions Magazine (M&C).
  • Association Conventions and Facilities Magazine, 2011 Distinctive Achievement Awards
  • Corporate & Incentive Travel Magazine, 2011 Award of Excellence
  • Winner of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Big Apple Award, Crisis Communications, Non-Profit Organizations, for work to combat misperceptions regarding New Orleans travel following the BP Oil Spill, May 2011
  • PR Week Magazine's Crisis Management Campaign of the Year, One of five national finalists for a 2010 Public Relations Campaign, March 2011
  • Winner of Successful Meetings' 2011 PINNACLE Award. This marks the 20th time the New Orleans CVB was chosen for this honor, January 2011
  • Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Adrian Award, Gold, for a 2010 Public Relations Campaign, January 2011
  • HSMAI Adrian Award, Silver (2) fortwo 2010 Public Relations Campaigns, January 2011
  • New Orleans CVB VP of Communications and Public Relations Kelly Schulz named one of HSMAI's 2010 "Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing", January 2011

*For a complete list of awards, visit www.neworleanscvb.com/press-media.

Festival Attendance



Mardi Gras

1 million +

1 million

French Quarter Festival



Jazz and Heritage Festival



New Orleans Wine & Food Experience



ESSENCE Music Fest



Tales of the Cocktail



Satchmo SummerFest



Southern Decadence Festival



Voodoo Music Experience


100,000 +

Oak Street Poboy Festival





  • On January 28, 2012, The Saint Hotel will officially open its doors following a $45 million purchase and transformation. The Saint, located in the historic Audubon Building on Canal Street, will include 166 modern guest rooms; Sweet Olive, a restaurant by Chef Michael Stoltzfus; the Burgundy Bar and the Halo Rooftop Bar.

Museums and Cultural Attractions

  • The Historic New Orleans Collection is featuring "The 18th Star: Treasures from 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood." The exhibit will be on view through January 29, 2012. To also celebrate Louisiana's bicentennial, the US Navy and OpSail will bring the Tall Ships of the world to New Orleans April 17-23 where the public will be invited to view the Tall Ships and Navy Ships.

  • New Orleans is home to famous and historical theaters, including the Mahalia Jackson Theatre, which underwent a $27 million renovation and reopened in January 2009. Other major theatre renovations include:
  • The lights of the legendary Saenger Theatre marquee shine bright again. The 2,700-seat Canal Street theatre, which originally opened in 1927, will undergo a nearly $40 million restoration and is scheduled for completion in 2012.
  • The historic Orpheum Theater began renovations in April and is set to reopen in 2012 following a restoration. The theater, which was home to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.


  • World-renowned chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto have announced their partnership and the formation of Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development, LLC, in which their first joint venture will be Restaurant R'evolution. The restaurant is scheduled to open in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in 2012 and will offer contemporary Creole cuisine.


New Orleans will host the following major sporting events from 2011-2013: Allstate Sugar Bowl - Jan. 3, 2012
BCS Championship Game - Jan. 9, 2012
SEC Basketball Championship - March 8-11, 2012
NCAA Men's Final Four Basketball Championship - March 31 & April 2, 2012
ArenaBowl XXV - Aug. 10, 2012
Super Bowl XLVII - Feb. 3, 2013
NCAA Women's Final Four - April 7 & 9, 2013

  • NOLA Motorsports Park is in the final stages of construction with full operations planned for late winter 2011/early spring 2012. The 640-acre facility houses several world-class driving venues: two road courses of more than 2.7 miles each, a 30-acre kart facility and an autocross pad. Located in Avondale, just 20 minutes from the central business district, the park is unique among major motorsports facilities and is designed as a multi-purpose events facility with motorsports activities. Food services will be provided by local chef Scott Boswell, proprietor of award-winning restaurants Stella! and Stanley.

    2012 Festivals
  • Zulu Lundi Gras Festival/Feb. 20
  • 25th Annual Lundi Gras at Spanish Plaza with Rex/Feb. 20
  • Mardi Gras Day/Feb. 21
  • Soul Fest/March TBD
  • Spring Fiesta/March 23-April 1
  • Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival/March 21-25
  • Congo Square/New World Rhythms Festival/March 24-25
  • Louisiana Oyster Jubilee/March 10
  • New Orleans Roadfood Festival/March 23-25
  • French Quarter Festival/April 12-15
  • New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Presented by Shell/April 27-May 6
  • Mid City Bayou Boogaloo/May 18-20
  • New Orleans Wine and Food Experience/May 22-26
  • Greek Festival/May 25-27
  • New Orleans Oyster Festival/June TBD
  • New Orleans Vieux-to-Do/June 8-10
  • ESSENCE Music Festival/July 6-8
  • San Fermin in Nueva Orleans/July 13-15
  • Tales of the Cocktail/July 25-29
  • COOLinary New Orleans/Aug. 1-31
  • Satchmo SummerFest/Aug. 2-5
  • Whitney White Linen Night/Aug. 4
  • Dirty Linen Night/Aug. 11
  • New Orleans Red Dress Run/Aug. 11
  • Southern Decadence Festival/Aug. 29-Sept. 3
  • New Orleans Seafood Festival/Sept. TBD
  • New Orleans Burlesque Festival/Sept. TBD
  • Gretna Heritage Festival/Oct. TBD
  • Art for Arts' Sake/Oct. 6
  • Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival/Oct. 12-14
  • New Orleans on Tap/October 2012
  • New Orleans Film Festival/Oct. TBD
  • Voodoo Music Experience/Oct. 26-28
  • Louisiana Swamp Festival/Nov. TBD
  • New Orleans Fringe Festival/Nov. TBD
  • Words and Music Literary Festival/Nov. TBD
  • Oak Street Poboy Festival/Nov. TBD
  • Christmas New Orleans Style/December

Meetings and Conventions

  • The Great Hall of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center debuts in January 2013. The Convention Center will now feature a 60,300 square foot divisible Great Hall, 25,400 square foot multi-use pre-function space, and includes hotel-like appointments throughout. The impressive 1.1 million square foot Center is now more attractive than ever to groups large and small. Additional features of note will include a 4,660 square foot junior ballroom, complete with a 3,420 square foot rooftop terrace, a 980 square foot indoor balcony and a 5,700 square foot executive club lounge.

Meetings (3,000 or more in attendance) in 2012 include:

  • Professional Photographers of America/Jan. 15-17        
  • SAP Global Marketing, Inc./Jan. 17-20
  • American Rental Association/Feb. 5-8
  • UBM LLC (Formerly United Business Media)/Feb. 14-17          
  • Vacuum & Sewing Dealers Association/Feb. 27-29
  • Realogy Corporation/Feb. 29-March 6
  • American Pharmacists Association/March 9-12
  • Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses/March 24-29      
  • New Orleans Dental Conference/April 12-14
  • American College of Physicians/April 17-21       
  • American Academy of Neurology           /April 21-28     
  • Oncology Nursing Society/May 3-6
  • Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association/May 7-9
  • American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine/May 30-June 1
  • International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association/June 10-12
  • Southern Baptist Convention/June 19-20
  • National Association of Black Journalists/June 20-24      
  • Kiwanis International/June 28-July 1
  • Evangelical Free Church of America/July 1-6
  • Southern Regional Education Board/July 10-13
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/July 18-22
  • National Medical Association/July 28-Aug. 1      
  • US Department Of Education/July 31-Aug. 2    
  • Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith/Aug. 3-8    
  • Pentecostal Assemblies of the World/Aug. 5-11
  • Louisiana Restaurant Association/Aug. 11-13
  • Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles/Mystic Shrine/Aug. 17-23
  • American Political Science Association/Aug. 30-Sept. 2
  • AARP/Sept. 20-22
  • Water Environment Federation/Sept. 29-Oct. 3
  • International Auto Body Congress and Expo/Oct. 10-13
  • Society for Neuroscience            /Oct. 13-17      
  • American Academy of Pediatrics/Oct. 20-23
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons/Oct. 26-30
  • EMS Expo, Inc./Oct. 29-Nov. 2
  • International Pool Spa Patio Expo/Nov. 6-8
  • American Association for Respiratory Care/Nov. 10-13
  • American Assn for the Advancement of Slavic Studies/Nov. 15-18
  • Diversified Business Communications/Dec. 5-7


  • In total, $300 million worth of modernization projects are underway at New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport. Following the completion of Concourse D, the Airport is continuing to focusing on the new consolidated rental car facility, which will greatly increase capacity to accommodate current needs and anticipated growth over the next 15 years, increasing capacity from 800 cars to approximately 1,800 cars in a three-story structure, which will include rental car company counters and offices.Additional airport upgrades include free WiFi, refurbished restrooms, a new aircraft rescue and fire fighting station and plans for a storm-proof power and water facility.

Additional flights in 2012 include:

  • Southwest Airlines (Additional direct flight to Baltimore-Washington International) beginning February 2012
  • Southwest Airlines (Additional direct flight to Chicago-Midway) beginning February 2012
  • Southwest Airlines (Additional departure to Las Vegas) beginning February 2012
  • Delta Airlines (Additional daily departure to New York JFK) beginning June 2012

  • January-June 2011: 4.8 million visitors/$3.1 billion
  • 2010: 8.3 million visitors/$5.3 billion (highest visitor spending in city's history)
  • 2009: 7.5 million visitors/$4.2 billion visitor spending
  • 2008: 7.6 million/$5.1 billion
  • 2007: 7.1 million/$4.8 billion
  • 2006:  3.7 million/$2.8 billion
  • 2005: July-December  stats not available
  • 2005: January-June: 5.3 million/$2.6 billion
  • 2004: 10.1 million/$4.9 billion
  • 2003: 8.5 million/$4.5 billion
  • Taxes: $250-300 million in tax revenues ... more than any other business sector
  • Economic impact of tourism: $5 billion
  • Employment: Nearly 70,000
  • Hotels: 263 and 36,993 hotel rooms
  • Restaurants: 1,236 (www.nomenu.com)
  • Airport: As of  December 2011; 14,371 daily seats and 116 daily operations serving 37 destinations

About the New Orleans CVB

The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is a nationally accredited, 1,000-member destination marketing organization and the largest and most successful private economic development corporation in Louisiana. We create $5 billion in new capital each year-more than any other business sector-by attracting millions of visitors, special events and conventions. The CVB and its members persuade thousands of decision-makers and millions of visitors to choose New Orleans through direct sales, marketing, public relations, branding and visitor services at our New Orleans headquarters and offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and four countries. Consistently recognized as one of the top five CVBs in the country, the New Orleans CVB celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010. For more information, please visit www.neworleanscvb.com.

Media Contact

Jenn Lotz


jlotz@neworleanscvb.com                                                           # # #