Crime and cleanliness cause for concern among New Orleans tourism officials

Posted on: June 6 2012
Survey reveals strong and weak areas in the city amongst tourists.

June 4, 2012

Don Ames WWL-AM 870

A national survey reveals strong consumer perceptions about New Orleans as the summer travel season kicks off.

Survey results seem to affirm the Convention and Visitors Bureau's efforts to improve the city's reputation after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

According to the study, 73 percent of travelers younger than 35 years old and 68 percent of travelers ages 35 and older say that New Orleans has become more appealing during the past 5-10 years, while 70 percent of all respondents said their perception of the city has changed in the six years since Hurricane Katrina, with many citing successful recovery and rebuilding efforts.

"The most uplifting part of this is the fact that those who come here are the ones who have the most positive response, and they're looking for an opportunity to come back," says Steve Pettus, with the CVB Board of Directors.

80 percent of those surveyed who've been to New Orleans say they're likely to come back.

"What that says is that we're providing a good experience for our customers to come into town," Pettus says.

He says the most negative perceptions about the city are primarily held by those who've never been here.

But, he says the city's detractors most often cite crime and cleanliness as the biggest problems.

"If there was a detractor in the report, it was crime and cleanliness," says Pettus. "They weren't top of mind, but they were in the top set."

He says top of mind were the city's cuisine, culture, nightlife and uniqueness.

More than 80 percent of survey respondents rated New Orleans excellent or good in those areas.

But, cleanliness and crime have long been major concerns in the area.

"It's pretty obvious that the ones we need to fix are cleanliness and crime, Pettus says. "If there's two dissatisfiers that are mentioned with greater frequency, it's those two."

"Visitors won't come to a destination with a negative reputation and they won't want to return to a place where they had a negative experience," says Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry.

However, the increased appeal of the city during the past 5 to 10 years is heartening.

"These results prove our efforts to change perceptions and drive tourism are working," Perry says.

Two results of the survey seem to bear him out: The BP oil spill was not a strong top of mind association among survey respondents, and 57 percent of respondents say the city is fully or mostly recovered from Katrina.

The region's tourism trade was strong last year.

The survey says New Orleans had 8.75 million visitors in 2011, up 5.5 percent over 2010. Visitor spending increased from $5.5 billion in 2010 to $5.7 billion last year, a 3.6 percent increase.

The tourists love New Orleans, but they'd love us to clean up our act.