Tourism officials say New Year's Eve festivities and Friday's Allstate Sugar Bowl have filled the nearly 21,000 hotel rooms in downtown New Orleans and is sure to keep bars and restaurants busy through the weekend.
On Friday, the No. 13 Oklahoma State Cowboys will face off against the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels at the Superdome.
Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., tells The Advocate two good teams that have not traveled here in a long time has brought a lot of pent-up excitement.
Besides drawing business for local hotels and restaurants, major sporting events such as the Sugar Bowl give the city valuable national exposure, as images of Jackson Square and other iconic local sights are periodically flashed to viewers watching the game on TV.
Last month, New Orleans was awarded the 2020 college football title game, besting five other cities and bringing the national championship back to the city for the first time since 2012. It will mark the 24th time the national champion has been involved in a game in New Orleans.
Though it's not as high-profile a matchup as last year's national semifinal, hotel managers and tourism leaders say the city's hotels are booked nearly solid, with most travelers arriving Wednesday or Thursday and staying until Saturday or Sunday.
"I was kind of leery about how we were going to perform this year initially, prior to the teams being announced, because it was not a playoff game," said Jonathan Beardsley, regional director of revenue management for HRI Lodging, which has about 800 rooms at hotels such as the Aloft New Orleans Downtown and Hyatt French Quarter. "But I think the teams that were chosen are in good positions relative to New Orleans, and their fans are able to travel to New Orleans, and thankfully, that has provided us with a good demand for the weekend."
Overall, thousands of revelers are expected to descend upon the hotel this week to stay in its rooms, dine in its restaurants or ring in the new year at its annual bash that boasts an open bar and nearly a dozen musical acts and performers — with tickets starting at close to $135 per person.