New Orleans hosted a record 10.45 million visitors in 2016, finally breaking past the pre-Katrina peak that hovered over the city and its tourism industry for more than a decade. Travelers shelled out a record $7.41 billion to stay in and explore the city last year.
New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry, New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp. CEO Mark Romig, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu all praised the record-breaking tourist count, which was released Thursday (March 23) in a news release. The University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center completes an annual study on local tourism for the CVB and NOTMC.
In 2015, New Orleans fell just shy of the 10.1 million visitor peak reached in 2004. Tourism officials pointed to rising tourist spending as a sign growth was on its way. Visitors spent $7.05 billion in 2015. Now that New Orleans has officially surpassed the old record, local tourism leaders can fully shift their sights to 2018. City tourism officials hope to attract 13.7 million visitors in New Orleans' tricentennial year.
Local leaders said the 2016 growth was the result of a coordinated effort to broaden the city's appeal involving city government, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, New Orleans Tourism and Marketing, Louis Armstrong International Airport and the Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association.
"These achievements are the result of a strategy that attracts a combination of carefully targeted convention business and leisure travelers through tactics which leverage paid media, earned public relations exposure and special events to market New Orleans to the world," Perry said in the release.
"This exciting achievement is a testament to our city's unique ability to host tourists and major events like no other," Landrieu said.
Major 2016 milestones included the announcement of two new nonstop flights from New Orleans to Europe. British Airways starts nonstop flights from New Orleans to London on March 27. Condor Airlines will fly seasonal, nonstop flights to Frankfurt, Germany beginning in May.
The city also hosted the U.S. Travel Association's IPW trade show in June 2016, drawing travel booking agents from across the world. Tourism leaders expect the show to unlock additional international interest in the city in coming years.
The year also underscored existing challenges. A shooting on Bourbon Street during the 2016 Bayou Classic in November left one man dead and nine others wounded, highlighting the tension between ongoing security concerns and the city's reputation as a safe and welcoming place for tourists.
Landrieu and Gov. John Bel Edwards in January unveiled a $40 million citywide safety program, which includes $8 million for dozens of security cameras to be installed along Bourbon Street and across the city. Some began to appear around Mardi Gras on Bourbon.
The city also deployed three temporary traffic security barricades in the French Quarter leading up to and during Mardi Gras celebrations in February. The barriers, intended for special events, have been removed.