Jazz Fest - WWL Radio Apr 27

April 30 2012 | Latest News
Mavis Early spoke with Don Ames regarding the hotels occupancy.

Don Ames, WWL- AM 870

A booming year for tourism in New Orleans gets another huge shot in the arm the next couple of weeks.

JazzFest, of course, means huge crowds at the Fairgrounds and it also means lots of folks packing the area's hotels.

Just how big is JazzFest for the local hotel industry?

"When you get to 97 or 98 percent occupancy, that's big," says Mavis Early, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association.

Early says that's where New Orleans hotels are at Friday and Saturday, which is on pace with last year, when about 400,000 fans hit the Fair Grounds.

And, she says Sunday is already looking better than last year, at 85 percent occupancy. That's about 7 percent above last year's first Sunday.

Mid-week hotel occupancy is picking up as well, as Early says a lot of folks are staying in town for both weekends.

"I'm seeing that more and more. They'll stay for one weekend and they won't leave until after the second weekend...probably Wednesday after the second weekend."

She says a lot of Jazz Fest fans want to experience the city's ambiance and culture when there aren't a half million tourists in town.

"They want to see the charm of the city in a less intense time. And, they can get reservations at restaurants easier, too," says Early.

More than 8 million people visit New Orleans annually, and music is the biggest draw after Mardi Gras, particularly for international visitors.

"We get a lot of international travelers for Jazz Fest, and we love that," Early says.

After drawing an estimated 400,000 fans to the Fair Grounds last year, Jazz Fest and its loyal patrons will undoubtedly have a stranglehold on the city and attract global media attention once again.

The Wall Street Journal says the local hotels are also getting premium rates for those hotel rooms this weekend.

The paper quotes a new survey from CheapHotels.org that says, on average, hotels in the Big Easy have raised their rates by 79% this weekend in comparison to their regular prices.

Early could not confirm that figure, but said that, when occupancy rates are high, room rates naturally tend to go up.

But, CheapHotels.org says that the second weekend will be slightly more wallet-friendly for festival goers.

Early also says a number of upcoming conventions in New Orleans will keep the area hotels quite busy until August, when things always slow down a bit.