What's New in New Orleans' Hospitality Industry - March/April 2012


  • March 31-April 2, New Orleans will host the 2012 NCAA Men's Final Four®, offering basketball fans a series of events, including Bracket Town, the Big Dance Concert Series featuring KISS, the Black Keys and Jimmy Buffett, youth clinics and more, all leading up to championship game on April 2. www.ncaa.com/finalfour
  • In 2012, Louisiana celebrates 200 years of statehood as the US Navy and OpSail will bring a collection of vintage Tall Ships from around the world to New Orleans, April 17-23. The historic USCG Barque Eagle will join the Guayas of Ecuador and the KRI Dewaruci of Indonesia and will dock alongside the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park, open to the public for viewing. http://www.opsail.org/
  • June 22-24, New Orleans will host the Second Annual FestiGals Weekend, a specially designed weekend created by and for women, where inspirational seminars and empowerment workshops will be mixed with unique New Orleans activities. All net proceeds are dedicated to supporting women battling cancer. Today Show co-host, Dateline correspondent and New York Times best-selling author Hoda Kotb will join a high-powered line-up of female speakers planned for the weekend-long festival. She will be featured as the event's keynote during a luncheon presentation at the Hotel Monteleone on Friday, June 22. http://www.festigals.org/
  • Southern Living named New Orleans one of the "Tastiest Towns in the South" in its April 2012 issue. The magazine looked at tastemakers, chefs, artisans and restaurants that give each food destination its distinct local flavor, and chose the Top 10 based on categories such as "Food as a cultural identity," "Hot chefs on the rise" and "Abundance of buzz-worthy food events." www.southernliving/tasty
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer announced a package of reforms that will transform the ground transportation experience for visitors. The proposed changes cover improving vehicle standards, creating accessible taxis for those with disabilities, improving driver standards, improving industry and permitting regulations, and implementing tough rules governed by the Taxicab and For Hire Vehicle Bureau. http://www.nola.gov/
  • Beginning November 2013, Carnival Sunshine will launch year-round, seven-day Caribbean departures from New Orleans. Over the next year, the vessel will undergo a $155 million makeover, Carnival's most ambitious refit and transformation project to date, incorporating all of the line's "Fun Ship 2.0" dining, bar and entertainment features, as well as a variety of exciting innovations unique to the Carnival Sunshine. http://www.carnival-news.com/
  • April 12-15, the 29th Annual French Quarter Fest, known as "the kickoff to festival season in New Orleans," is the largest free music festival in the south, featuring more than 800 local musicians, more than 65 of New Orleans finest restaurants, family fun with two areas for kids and the return of fireworks on the Mississippi River. ‘Locals' Lagniappe Day' was launched in 2011 making French Quarter Festival a four-day event. The 2011 French Quarter Festival hosted more than 500,000 local and out-of-town visitors and had an economic impact of approximately $245 million. http://www.fqfi.org/
  • The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, was named among the top 10 best luxury hotels in the United States in TripAdvisor, Inc.'s 2012 Travelers' Choice awards. TripAdvisors Travelers' Choice winners are based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from travelers around the world. www.therooseveltneworleans.com
  • The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport reported that a record number of passengers traveled through the Armstrong International Airport in 2011. The 2011 passenger volume increased 4.2 percent to 8,546,980 up from 8,203,305 in 2010, exceeding the Federal Aviation Administration's national growth projection of three percent. Additional non-stop flight service since 2010 influenced the passenger numbers and the growth increase.
  • The James Beard Foundation has named four New Orleans Chefs among the semifinalists for best chef: Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery, Alon Shaya of Domenica, John Harris of Lilette and Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace. Sue Zemanick of Gautreau's is nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year and Donald Link of Herbsaint is nominated for Outstanding Chef. http://www.jamesbeard.org/
  • The 13th Annual Youth Leadership Council's Wednesday at the Square 12-week concert series kicked off on March 14 in Lafayette Square. The free concerts will run every Wednesday evening from 5-8 p.m. through May 30 and is the biggest fundraiser for the non-profit organization. http://www.wednesdayatthesquare.com/
  • Bourbon Orleans Hotel has announced the completion of the $17 million renovation on all of the hotel's 218 luxury guestrooms and 28 balcony suites. The renovations include new bedding and carpeting, refurbished bathrooms along with other in-room amenities as well as fitness center free to all guests. http://www.bourbonorleans.com/
  • The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell has announced a stellar line-up for the 2012, seven-day festival. This year's performers include the Eagles, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Cee Lo Green, Bon Iver, Jill Scott, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen. Jazz Fest is a staple event in New Orleans' spring festival line up, attracting approximately 400,000 attendees each year and generating nearly $300 million in economic impact. This year's festival is April 27-29 and May 3-6. http://www.nojazzfest.com/
  • May 22-26, The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (NOWFE) celebrates its 20th anniversary of raising money for local non-profits while showcasing local food and chefs, and national and international wines. NOWFE offers wine and food seminars, wine dinners at participating restaurants, wine tasting events and two Grand Tastings, attracting more than 10,000 people to the five-day event. http://www.nowfe.com/
  • The Commander's Palace restaurant group is partnering with the W Hotel to open SoBou in the W Hotel French Quarter this spring. Chef Juan Carlos Gonzales has been named the executive chef of SoBou, and the restaurants fare is described as small-plate, modern Creole, with menu items ranging from $2 to $20. The restaurant will have an emphasis on cocktails, as Lu Brow of the Swizzle Stick Bar will construct the libations menu. www.commanderspalace.com
  • According to The Wallstreet Journal's Marketwatch, the New Orleans region was the number one most improved market for business in the United States, rising 44 positions from 77th in 2010 to 33rd in 2011. According to a press release issued by Greater New Orleans Inc., the publication cites many reasons for New Orleans' rapid climb including a top ranking in long-term personal income growth and the area's ranking of 15th in economic output. www.gnoinc.org/news
  • In 2012, the well-known neighborhood Tremé will celebrate its 200th anniversary. This area gave rise to jazz and brass bands, incredible architecture, Mardi Gras Indians and several pioneers of the civil rights movement, and is now home to key cultural institutions like the New Orleans African American Museum, Backstreet Cultural Museum, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Armstrong Park and more. http://www.treme2012.com/
  • M.S. Rau Antiques celebrated its centennial in March 2012 as one of the country's oldest and largest antiques, fine arts and estate jewelry dealers. Also taking place in 2012 is the launch of Rau for Art Foundation, a non-for-profit program and art contest targeting high school art students in grade 10-12 from in local school districts. http://www.rauantiques.com/


Kicking off the New Year, New Orleans hosted the 78th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl, a Saints home playoff game, several Hornets games and the BCS National Championship all within days of each other. This was a tremendous way for New Orleans to start 2012, bringing more than $400 million in economic impact to the city, marking sold-out hotels during peak nights and bringing an influx of people to the area. Sports fans not only enjoyed a newly-renovated Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but also the city's 1,200 restaurants and many music clubs, creating an overall, one-of-a-kind visitor experience. Next on the city's sports agenda are NCAA Men's Final Four Basketball Championship, March 31 & April 2, 2012, the Zurich Classic, April 23-29, 2012 and Super Bowl 2013.  No other city has played host to such a series of high-profile sporting events within an 18-month period.

  • The Mercedes-Benz Superdome recently completed an $85 million renovation; part of an overall $336 million renovation that began in 2006. Key significant enhancements include an expansion of the Plaza Level concourse by 50 feet, 135 additional new women's restrooms, additional concession points of sale on the Plaza Level, 3,100 additional Plaza Level seats, 186 digital concourse monitors and two new premium bunker club lounges. On October 4, 2011, Governor Bobby Jindal joined Saints Owner Tom Benson and key representatives of Mercedes-Benz USA to announce a 10-year agreement reached between the NFL Saints and Mercedes-Benz USA to name the Louisiana Superdome the "Mercedes-Benz Superdome." www.superdome.com
  • NOLA Motorsports Park is open but is in the final stages of construction with full operations planned for 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 Chef Scott Boswell, proprietor of award-winning restaurants Stella! and Stanley. http://www.nolamotor.com/
  • On March 4, New Orleans welcomed more than 20,000 runners to the city for the third annual Rock ‘n' Roll New Orleans Marathon & ½ Marathon benefiting the American Cancer Society. More than 3,600 participants finished the marathon and more than 13,000 finished the half marathon. www.runrocknroll.competitor.com/new-orleans


  • U.S. News & World Report ranked The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans number one out of 147 New Orleans hotels based on an evaluation of expert ratings and awards, as well as user reviews. The hotel scored high enough to make the U.S. News' list of the 2012 Best Hotels in New Orleans. www.ritzcarlton.com/neworleans
  • July 2012, Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter will open in the heart of the Crescent City. The former Ramada hotel will undergo a multi-million dollar renovation prior to opening as a Four Points, and will offer 186 guest rooms, 4,375 square feet of meeting space, a full-service restaurant, Café, Opera, under the direction of Chef Philippe Andreani, along with other state-of-the-art amenities. http://www.starwoodhotels.com/
  • On January 28, 2012, The Saint Hotel officially opened its doors following a $45 million purchase and transformation. The Saint, located in the historic Audubon Building on Canal Street, includes 166 modern guest rooms; Sweet Olive, a restaurant by Chef Michael Stoltzfus; the Burgundy Bar and the Halo Rooftop Bar. The property reflects a contemporary spirit and look while staying true to New Orleans-inspired designs and traditions. http://www.thesainthotelneworleans.com/
  • The historic Hotel Monteleone has revealed the name of its new restaurant and bar. Criollo Restaurant and Lounge will debut in May 2012 and will infuse traditional Creole flavors of French, Spanish, Italian and African with new spices to create dishes in the style it calls Louisiana Fusion. Additionally, the Monteleone celebrated the grand reopening of its famous Carousel Bar following a six month, multimillion dollar renovation, which included new windows, furniture and the addition of a second bar. http://www.hotelmonteleone.com/


Museums & Theatres

  • Following a major renovation, the historic Joy Theater reopened the 10,000 square foot multipurpose complex at 1200 Canal Street in December 2011. The Joy officially opened in 1947 as a movie theater. Located across the street from the Joy on Canal Street, the Saenger Theater is currently undergoing a $51 million restoration, adding another key performance venue to New Orleans' theater district. http://www.thejoytheater.com/
  • Broadway Across America continues its commitment to New Orleans, announcing the 2012-2013 season at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. Following the Lion King (March 14-April 15), the performances continue with Les Misérables (Oct. 30-Nov. 4), Mary Poppins (Dec. 18-23), Jersey Boys (Jan. 8-27, 2013), Flashdance (Feb. 26-March 3, 2013), Million Dollar Quartet (April 16-21, 2013) and Wicked (May 8-June 2, 2013). http://neworleans.broadway.com/

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 3-4
  • Louisiana Oyster Jubilee/March 10
  • Earth Fest/March 17-18
  • Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival/March 21-25
  • New Orleans Roadfood Festival/March 23-25
  • Spring Fiesta/March 23-April 1
  • Congo Square/New World Rhythms Festival/March 24-25
  • French Quarter Festival/April 12-15
  • Louisiana Bicentennial Celebration/April 17-23
  • New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Presented by Shell/April 27-May 6
  • Mid City Bayou Boogaloo/May 18-20
  • Asian Pacific American Society Festival/May 19
  • New Orleans Wine and Food Experience/May 22-26
  • Greek Festival/May 25-27
  • New Orleans Oyster Festival/June 2-3
  • New Orleans Vieux-to-Do/June 8-10
  • New Orleans Pride Festival/June 21-24
  • FestiGals/June 22-24
  • 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. 13-15
  • New Orleans on Tap Beer Festival/Sept. 29
  • Gretna Heritage Festival/Oct. 5-7
  • Art for Arts' Sake/Oct. 6
  • Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival/Oct. 12-14
  • New Orleans Film Festival/Oct. 12-18
  • Celebracion Latina/Oct. 13
  • New Orleans on Tap/Oct. TBD
  • Voodoo Music Experience/Oct. 26-28
  • Louisiana Swamp Festival/Nov. 3-4
  • New Orleans Fringe Festival/Nov. 14-18
  • Words and Music Literary Festival/Nov. TBD
  • Oak Street Poboy Festival/Nov. TBD
  • Treme Creole Gumbo Festival/Dec. 8
  • Christmas New Orleans Style/December


Festival Attendance




Mardi Gras

1 million +

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 +



  • Mardi Gras 2012 was a tremendous success. Parade-goers happily welcomed two new krewes this year, the Krewe of Nyx and the Krewe of Freret. Almost all hotels in the New Orleans area reported nearly sold-out numbers for the weekend leading up to February 21, 2012. According to a study from the Carnival Krewe Civic Foundation, the economic value of the 2011 Mardi Gras season showed a total contribution to the New Orleans economy of $300.7 million.

Meetings and Conventions

  • The Great Hall of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will debut in January 2013, featuring a 60,300 square foot divisible Great Hall, 25,400 square foot multi-use pre-function space, and hotel-like appointments throughout. The impressive one 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
  • 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 Association 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 Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Following the expansion of Concourse D and the addition of six new gates, the Airport is continuing to focus on the construction of the new consolidated rental car facility (CONRAC), which will greatly increase capacity to accommodate current needs and anticipated growth over the next 15 years.  The new structure will increase the rental inventory from 800 cars to approximately 1,800 in a modern three-story structure. The facility will include rental car company counters and offices and be the drop-off and pick-up point for the rental cars. With its close proximity to the terminal, the CONRAC will eliminate the need for shuttles. New service centers for the rental cars have been constructed and are functioning as temporary drop-off and pick-up points for the automobiles.

Additional airport upgrades completed or scheduled to be ready by the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans includes a new Security and Communications Center, free WiFi in the terminal, new Flight Display Information Systems, refurbished and new restrooms, a new aircraft rescue and firefighting station (ARFF), new signage, new passenger aircraft loading bridges, apron rehabilitation, a new façade on the exterior of the terminal, the installation of a new décor in the passenger terminal areas that will bring natural light into the ticketing and baggage claim areas, widening of walkways and plans for a storm-proof power and water facility. www.flymsy.com

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 (New non-stop destination - one 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 74,000
  • Hotels: 263 and 37,100 hotel rooms
  • Restaurants: 1,251 (www.nomenu.com)
  • Airport: As of  March 2012; 15,325 average daily seats and 128 average daily departures serving 37 non-stop 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 help 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, Phoenix 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
Sarah Forman


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