2010 will be tough to follow...

January 31 2011 | Latest News

Read what Mavis had to say in her interview with Don Ames...

Monday, 31 January 2011 6:30AM

Don Ames Reporting

New Orleans area hotels ended 2010 on a high note, posting a nearly 13 percent increase in occupancy throughout the year compared with 2009, according to Smith Travel Research.The New Orleans area had the 11th highest occupancy among the Top 25 markets last year at 64.7 percent, up from 57.4 percent in 2009. That beat the national average of 57.6 percent, up from 54.4 percent a year earlier.

Meanwhile, rooms were going for an average of $115.87 a night in New Orleans, the ninth highest rate. That was up from $113.80 in 2009.

The New York area had the highest occupancy and room rate in 2010 at 80.9 percent.

Mavis Early, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association, says it was a phenomenal year...much better than expected.

"The momentum began with the Saints and continued with the incredible national exposure. Pretty much everybody in the country got behind them, except for the opposing teams' fans."

A big negative for the area also turned out to be a plus, of sorts.

"What helped us a great deal last year, immediately after the oil spill, was the five million dollars that BP gave to New Orleans that went into turning around the perception that was developing that the oil was lapping at the shores of New Orleans. It just goes to show what the power of marketing can do, especially if you do it right and time it right," says Early.

The hospitality industry is hoping that visitor numbers continue to climb in 2011, but the Saints' Super Bowl season will be tough to duplicate.

"The first half of the year looks healthy, it looks good. Everybody's seems very comfortable. The second half of the year, at this point in time...not so optimistic. But there are a lot of things that we are working on, as far as marketing," Early says.

"We still have, and will continue to have challenges in August and September, so that pulls down the second half of the year substantially. That's due to the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina," says Early.

"It's a hard perception to overcome for August and September, to say 'Come here, it'll be great'."

The first half of the year has a number of major conventions coming to town: The American Academy of Dermatology, Cisco, ESPN's Bass Masters Classic, the American College of Cardiology and the National Catholic Education Association, to name just a few.

"In July, we have the Essence Festival, and amateur athletics. And then, we get to August and September where it's quite dry," says Early.

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to advance the city's $5 billion tourism industry in 2011 and maintain New Orleans ' 2010 status as the number one destination in the country.

However, the CBV is facing a $2.3 million budget deficit this year.

The group expects to generate $10.3 million in revenue, but has expenses of $12.6 million, according to President Stephen Perry.

The CVB is hoping to receive all or a share of the $6 million tourism grant BP has announced it will allocate to the city.