Sally Salo of Dreamscape Travel in Delmont, Pa., says even though
most people, including her clients, know New Orleans for its famed
Mardi Gras, she sells the city more on attractions and activities
beyond Mardi Gras, including tours to neighboring plantations,
excursions to the surrounding swamps and Cajun cooking experiences.
Mardi Gras and its racy reputation just doesn't have that much
appeal to clients of Dreamscape, an agency located about 40 miles
east of Pittsburgh. "My clients are country folks, not city folks,"
Yet Mardi Gras is such a potent image for New Orleans that Salo
uses it, combined with the city's signature music, in another
selling strategy that has proved very successful. "My son installed
a speaker outside the agency, and on Friday nights, when the agency
is open until 7 p.m., we play music that suggests a particular
destination," says Salo. "We've played Cajun music for New Orleans
and we've also decorated the agency's picture window with a Mardi
Gras motif for the entire month of February. The music puts the
thought into their [clients'] heads."
Motorcoach tours comprise a large part of her New Orleans
to Salo. "I use the fact that it's coach transportation down to
the city in selling the tour," she says. "A lot of people are
afraid of having to rent a car and finding hotels, restaurants and
attractions on their own. With a motorcoach tour and with a hotel
in New Orleans that is within walking distance of everything, they
don't have to worry.
"The men are the hardest to get on the bus," Salo says, pointing
to many male clients' fear of being viewed as less than independent
and self-reliant. "Once they do one of these tours, though, they
are our best advertisers."
At Springdale Travel in Mobile, Ala., Gail White specializes in
corporate group travel, either for meetings or incentives. White
says New Orleans is extremely popular with this market: "If you
have a meeting in New Orleans, people will go. It's just that
powerful of a destination."
There can, however, be some tricky elements to selling the city
to White's niche market. "There is so much to do in the city that
our clients, the companies, can just let attendees loose at night,"
"But for companies that like to keep their group together, that
can be a problem. They may not want attendees going off on their
own. They may be worrying about them showing up the next day for
"If that's the hesitation, then we plan a private dinner or a
tour for the group," says White. "New Orleans certainly has enough
venues for receptions and special events. The hospitality and
ground operations are also great and the CVB is wonderful to work
Price is paramount in selling the corporate market, according to
White. "It all comes down to price -- getting clients a good deal
in hotel rooms and air fare," she says. White adds that hotel space
in New Orleans "will either be there or it won't; there's not too
much in between in terms of securing space."
White says that if the space is available, it's a question of
negotiating. "We have found that city hotels are willing to work
with us," she says. "If the space is there, the hotels are very
competitive."New Orleans: For More Information
The New Orleans
Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau can be reached at
1520 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans 70112-1259; (800) 748-8695; www.neworleanscvb.com