Hyatt groundbreaking is a boost for convention business

August 20 2010 | Latest News
by Wayne Carter / Eyewitness News

August 18, 2010

NEW ORLEANS -- Hours before opening at Tujagues Restaurant in the French Quarter, owner Mark Latter is making sure he's ready for the first patron during a slow summer.

“Convention business is very important to us. Back in the early 2000s, 2001 and 2002, business was rolling with convention business. I think we're always going to have the tourism business that’s going to have its ups and down with the different seasons, but very much so the convention business is important,” said Mark Latter of Tujagues Restaurant.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005 the city lost $2 billion in business. Those who rely on the conventions say the slump still exists. Cabbie Antoine Valcius worked all morning and only took in $27.

“When you have convention, some good. You make maybe $60, $80 $100 dollars a day sometimes,” Valcius said.

But the Convention and Visitors Bureau says the city has made amazing strides post-Katrina. 7.5 million visitors were here last year alone, and they have a plan to bring in more conventions.

City leaders celebrated the groundbreaking on the renovations of the Hyatt Hotel on Wednesday. The hotel will go from a post-Katrina eyesore to a luxury feel.

"This physical structure, the architecture where it sits, how it's placed into the new sports entertainment medical complex is visionary and future looking as opposed to looking back at what we had before,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

In the driveway between the Hyatt and the Superdome, which was the entrance to the Hyatt for years, is going to be meeting space. It's going to be the second largest convention space in the city.

"This opening is absolutely critical to our industry,” said Stephen Perry, CEO of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “It's symbolically the last piece of the damage from before coming back that’s coming back into place in our core hospitality industry."

Tourism experts say the Hyatt will offer a second convention venue to the city and bring in millions of dollars directly and to businesses alike.

The new Hyatt is expected to open next fall.