New Orleans is marking some tourism
milestones in its comeback from the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina. It is also investing some miles in a new marketing effort
to stimulate more leisure tourism as a complement to its resurgent
Using a historic
New Orleans streetcar as a draw, Metropolitan Convention and
Visitors Bureau President Steve Perry and other representatives
were in New York's Times Square last week to launch a road show
they hope will help persuade tourists to return to the still
to battle misperceptions among the greater public," said Mary Beth
Romig, a spokeswoman for the bureau. "That is what the road show is
She said the most
recent "State of the City" report, a monthly update the CVB has
issued for the past year highlighting the status of the recovery,
has marked a series of important steps.
The national and
international road show, which will include London; Frankfurt,
Germany; Paris and major cities in the U.S., is only part of
"What the report
is telling us is that with every passing month, we are hitting
milestones and definitely moving forward in our
convention business has been returning.
College of Cardiology held its 56th annual Scientific Session in
New Orleans in late March. The event drew 30,000 visitors, the
city's largest convention attendance since 2005. In total, March
saw some 83,000 convention visitors.
The Sugar Bowl,
which had an economic impact estimated at $126.7 million; two
rounds of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball championship
tournament; and Mardi Gras, which drew 100,000 more visitors than
the previous year's carnival, all helped boost businesses that have
struggled since the storm.
Romig said the
monthly milestone reports on the city's recovery, which highlight
the return of cultural attractions, conventions and the slowest
growing category, leisure tourism, had proven essential to
attracting ever-increasing tourism-related spending. Only the CVB
is compiling such reports, she said.
"We have to have
answers right away," Romig said, "particularly for the meeting
planners and customers for the next five to 10 years. It's
important that we be able to answer questions factually and to show
that the city is very much open. People are under the misperception
that much of the city remains too damaged to operate."
acknowledging that New Orleans still faces a long recovery,
primarily in badly flooded neighborhoods, she added that "in the
business district and all the parts that visitors want to see and
experience about New Orleans, business is very much
College of Sports Medicine will open its annual convention in New
Orleans in May with 4,000 visitors.
Another 3,000 are
expected over the summer months before larger conventions begin to
return in September, culminating in 25,000 more visitors from the
American Academy of Ophthalmology in November and Pennwell
Corporation's 17,000 attendees in December.
But the road show
push, in which the historic streetcar will be trucked across the
country to Chicago and Washington, is aimed primarily at getting
the message out to leisure tourists that the city is operating its
traditional attractions at levels that are near normal.
"We are still
struggling in the leisure-visitor market," said Romig. "It is the
leisure visitors who have more doubts about coming to New Orleans
than the convention market. But we are addressing that, and it is
why part of our team is in New York."
to be a challenge for the city. Some 220,000 residents are now
living in New Orleans, less than half the number who lived there
and other businesses are seeing improvements in the service labor
shortage that, as a result of housing problems, has plagued the
city for much of the past 18 months.
"The city is
trying," Romig said. "They are redeveloping 17 key areas of New
Orleans. But we have also seen the burgeoning of surrounding
suburbs and parishes. The people who have decided to come back are
making it happen."
The CVB's road
show kick-off last week featuring the streetcar -- which represents
a different kind of "desire" from the one Tennessee Williams made
famous -- managed to draw some airtime on ABC's "Good Morning
It was trucked to
New York from a museum in Connecticut, and it will be shipped the
same way to Washington and Chicago later this year.
Romig said that
after months of trying to persuade producers of the ABC morning
show to give the event some footage, the marketing team of the CVB
was relieved when it happened.
"It was huge,"
she said. "How can you miss a streetcar in the heart of Times
reporter Dan Luzadder, send e-mail to [email protected].