New Orleans continues to hit home runs

Posted on: January 28 2013

January 28, 2013

By Johanna Jainchill, Travel Weekly

SuperdomeThis Sunday, the Super Bowl will be in New Orleans for the 10th time, tying the city with Miami for the most times as host.

It is also the Big Easy's first time hosting the football championship since Hurricane Katrina tore through the city in 2005, leaving a swath of destruction that would take years to recover from.

But according to tourism officials, New Orleans has not only recovered, it is thriving, with tourism numbers exceeding those of pre-Katrina.

"It's been a spectacular 2012 for us," said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). "Restaurants are setting records, we had the most revenue ever gained in the past year and the highest visitor spend total in the city's history. And '13 looks even better.

"The most important thing from our point of view is that the difficulties of [Katrina] are so far behind, they are barely visible in the rearview mirror."

According to the CVB, since 2005, more than 500 new restaurants have opened in the city, which is also experiencing the second-highest revenue per available room for hotels in the U.S. behind New York. In 2011, visitors spent $5.47 billion in New Orleans, the most in the city's history; Perry said 2012 will surpass that, but the numbers are not yet official.

Irish HousePerry added that growth from the international travel market, particularly Canada, Europe and Australia, has been dramatic and that the CVB is going to double its international marketing next year.

The return of the Super Bowl is just another indication of New Orleans' recovery, he said. The fact that the city's most famous festival begins the week before the game, and culminates the week after, will make this February even more of a milestone.

"When you have Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl together, it is going to be an amazing time," Perry said. "Most of the rooms will be filled; to say there will be dancing in the streets [would] be an understatement."

Perry said the city has attracted many premier sporting events over the past two years. In 2012, New Orleans was the first city to host college athletics' two highest-profile championships, the Bowl Championship Series title game and the NCAA men's basketball Final Four. In 2013, the city will host the Super Bowl and the NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four.

"You can't underestimate the value of major sporting events that get national coverage and get the word out about all the good things going on in New Orleans," Perry said.