Spokane Journal of Business

Post-Katrina New Orleans shows strong visitor gains

Last year's 9 million total was city's highest in nearly 10 years, recent study finds

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New Orleans' tourism industry welcomed 9.01 million visitors in 2012, record numbers not seen by the city in nearly 10 years, and those visitors spent a record $6 billion, a recently released study shows.

Total visitor numbers increased by 3 percent, or 255,000 people, from the 8.75 million visitors in 2011, the figures show. The $6 billion in expenditures by last year's visitors represented a 9 percent increase of $512 million compared with the prior year.

The 2012 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile study was carried out by the UNO Hospitality Research Center for the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau and New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.

In 2003, New Orleans welcomed 8.5 million visitors, who spent $4.5 billion. The year 2004 was a record-breaking year, with 10.1 million visitors and visitor spending totaling $4.9 billion. After Katrina, visitor numbers dropped to 3.7 million in 2006, with $2.8 billion in visitor spending. Due to the efforts of the New Orleans CVB and the tourism marketing corporation, visitor numbers increased to 7.1 million in 2007 with $4.8 billion in spending. Numbers increased in 2008 and 2009, ultimately reaching 8.3 million visitors and $5.3 billion in spending in 2010.

Seventy-three percent of the respondents who offered open-ended comments in 2012 provided positive feedback about the city, with about half of them saying they plan to return or recommend New Orleans to others.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu says, "The continued growth of both visitor numbers and spending is a reflection of the hard work of our hospitality industry. I feel confident that we will continue the upward trajectory as we work toward the goal of welcoming 13 million visitors by 2018."

All key indicators increased in 2012, compared with 2011, the study showed.

For example, lodging spending increased by 17 percent, restaurant spending increased by 9 percent, spending in bars and nightclubs jumped by 10 percent.

About three-fourths of visitors surveyed were in New Orleans for vacation or pleasure; 14 percent were there for association, convention, tradeshow or corporate meetings; and 10 percent were there for general business.

Cruise visitors comprised about 1.7 percent of the total number of visitor responses, and they stayed an average of two nights in New Orleans before or after their cruise

The 2012 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile report also found that more than 40 percent of New Orleans visitors were in town for the first time, and that Texas, California, Florida, and New York were the top feeder states for overnight visitors. Duration of overnight visitor stays remained about the same at an average of 4.2 nights.

"Reaching a milestone of 9 million visitors in 2012 during a tough national economy reinforces that tourism does not just happen on its own, it takes aggressive, cutting-edge sales, and marketing strategies," says Stephen Perry , president and CEO of the New Orleans CVB.

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