With new ads, New Orleans aims to avoid oil spill fallout


New Orleans is humming these days, and city tourism officials want to keep it that way.

"We're 90% booked on weekends; all 35,000 rooms are sold out for the July 4 weekend; we've had a tremendous bounce in leisure and transient business, and we had a record-breaking spring festival season," said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It's taken five years and an unprecedented level of marketing by hotels and the hospitality community to bring the city's tourism industry back from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to Perry.

As the oil crisis unfolds 100 miles away along the Gulf Coast, city tourism officials are working to protect and build on that momentum.

"Despite the environmental disaster in the Gulf, consumers have rediscovered New Orleans as one of the hottest destinations in the U.S.," Perry said. "We're proud of this status, but we must acquire new resources to aggressively market New Orleans to potential travelers."

On June 17, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu submitted a request to BP on behalf of the city's tourism industry for $75 million to be used for a three-year promotional campaign.

Perry described the request "as part of a strategy of preventative maintenance to protect the New Orleans economy and mitigate future potential losses to the image-driven tourism industry."

In late May, BP allocated money to the Gulf states to use for marketing campaigns. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi each received $15 million, while Florida got $25 million.

Of Louisiana's share, New Orleans received $5 million. "We plan to use the $75 million we have requested from BP for phase two of that campaign over a three-year period," Perry said.

The CVB campaign will include online ads, newspaper ads and TV spots in Chicago and other key feeder markets, he said.

In four print ads, already produced, a blurb at the bottom promotes New Orleans hotel rates, starting at $79 per night.

Perry said two ads touting seafood "are particularly important. Close to 80% of Louisiana's fishing waters remain open. What has been impacted are our oyster beds, and they are closed down, but everything west of the Mississippi River is fine, including crabs, crawfish and shrimp."

This report appeared in the June 28 issue of Travel Weekly.

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