Louisiana tourism trending upward

January 26 2012 | Latest News
"...tourist spending this year should also outpace 2011 by about $500 million..."

January 26, 2012

Ed Anderson, The Times-Picayune

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the state's chief tourism booster, said Wednesday that the number of tourists and the money they spend "are trending in the right direction" this year despite a struggling national economy and lingering effects from hurricanes and the 2010 offshore oil spill. Dardenne's assessment came during the annual Louisiana Travel Promotion Association's Summit in Shreveport.
jay-dardenne-final-four-2012.jpgMichael DeMocker, The Times-PicayuneAs Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, left, looks on, Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson and Jeff Hathaway, Chair of the Men's Division I Men's Basketball Committee, unveil a countdown poster during a Final Four "Tip-Off" press conference Tuesday.

He said that 2012 could wind up being "a banner year," with Louisiana celebrating its 200th anniversary of statehood, New Orleans hosting the NCAA's Final Four basketball tournament, and the Shreveport area hosting the Bassmasters Classic fishing tournament next month.

Dardenne, who by law oversees the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said the year started with a bang with the BCS national college football title game between Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama played at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Melody Alijani, director of research and development in the department's Office of Tourism, said that based on a study by LSU and the University of New Orleans, 2012 should see an increase of about 500,000 visitors this year -- from 24.7 million in 2011 to 25.2 this year.

Alijani said that tourist spending this year should also outpace 2011 by about $500 million -- from $9.4 billion to $9.9 billion.

She said the numbers for 2011 are not yet final and are still projections. A revised study of the state's tourism picture will be available in the spring, she said.

If the 2012 projections hold, Alijani said, the 25.2 million domestic and overseas visitors would mean the strongest tourism year since 2003 when 26.2 million visitors spent $9.4 billion.

The last time the 25 million-tourist barrier was reached was in 2010 when 25.1 million tourists visited Louisiana and spent $9.6 billion.

The study projects that 2013 will be stronger with 26 million visitors expected to leave behind $10.5 billion.

"Considering all of the events that have happened to us in the last four or five years, we are doing well," Alijani said, referring to the hurricanes and a sluggish national economy. "We are seeing slow, steady increases. It is sustainable."

The study said although the number of visitors to Louisiana in 2012 is expected to be the strongest since the baseline year of 2004, visitor spending is not expected to exceed the spending level of 2004 until 2013.
Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne on economic impact of the  Final Four Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne on economic impact of the Final Four Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne spoke at a Tuesday news conference about the NCAA Final Four and it's impact on the city of New Orleans and the state.

Alijani said the study shows that New Orleans is not expected to reach pre-Hurricane Katrina levels of tourism until after 2014.

Although the city's picture has been generally positive in recent years, the study said that 10.1 million people visited New Orleans in 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina, and 8.3 million are expected this year, 8.6 million next year and 9 million in 2014.

The study does not make projections past 2014.

The report said that in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, visitor spending declined statewide by about 34 percent. That was followed in 2009 by the national recession which slowed leisure and business travel and the oil spill of 2010.

The report said the spill "had a significant impact on the state's tourism" but its "effects are yet to be seen."