Beyond Recovery: New Orleans Boasts as a Top Destination for Tourists
In 2013, New Orleans will host the NFL Super Bowl, which will be played for the tenth time in the city inside the newly-branded Mercedes Benz Superdome. Though the game will attract thousands of spectators, it will be a chance for the city to showcase itself to over 100 million television viewers, as it has historically been the most watched television show in U.S. history. The last time New Orleans was broadcast nationally to so many televisions was in the wake of the hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Super Bowl will be an opportunity to show the world a city that is beyond recovery; New Orleans is a thriving and exciting city.
Though the city has recovered in many industry sectors, much of this activity can be attributed to the bustling tourism industry. Based on data from the New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (NOCVB), 8.75 million visitors came to New Orleans and spent $5.47 billion. Based on this data, total visitation has been recovering at an average annual rate of 19%, and visitor spending has grown at an average annual rate of 14.3% since 2006. Tourism has been a major force in the city’s recovery as it supports over 70,000 industry-related jobs and pays more than $250 million in annual taxes, according to the NOCVB. The graph below expresses the visitation and spending in New Orleans from 2003-2011, and from this it is evident that the city struggled as a result of the hurricanes and the economic recession, where overall traveling within the U.S. declined briefly. In 2010 and 2011, strong increases in visitation and spending support the NOCVB’s goal to reach 13 million visitors by 2018.
People around the world recognize New Orleans for its Mardi Gras celebrations which attract over one million people annually. For many people, Mardi Gras is just one major festival amongst many. Though I am not a New Orleans native, it didn’t take me long to realize that this is a city that celebrates everything. Throughout the year there are other top events that attract hundreds of thousands of people, including the French Quarter Festival, the Jazz & Heritage Festival and ESSENCE Music Festival. Though leisure events are part of what makes the city so vibrant, unique and exciting; visitors also come to New Orleans for conventions and national sporting events like the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the NCAA Final Four.
Visitors to New Orleans can expect to see many changes to the city as compared to just a few years ago. When arriving at the Airport, travelers should expect to see terminal modernization improvements, including an expanded Concourse D and a new Consolidated Rental Car Facility (opening in early 2013). When guests arrive downtown they will see that the Superdome area has been transformed to a luxury environment, complete with the Mercedes-Benz brand, the opening of Champions Square and the 31- story Hyatt Regency. After a $243 million renovation the Hyatt has rejoined the city’s hotel inventory of over 35,000 available rooms. Fans of the city’s streetcars will be thrilled to see that construction has begun on the Loyola Avenue Line along 1.5 miles connecting the Union Passenger Terminal and the Superdome to Canal Street.
It is evident that a focus on tourism and investment in related infrastructure has contributed greatly to a rebirth of New Orleans. Amongst many of these improvements, visitors will be most impressed with the overall spirit of the city and the unrivaled hospitality offered to guests. Anybody who has visited the city knows that they are guaranteed an experience unlike any other!
Nilsa M. Duran
Analyst, Planning and Built Environment
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