N.O. shoots for record summer for tourism

June 1 2011 | Latest News

May 30, 2011

Monday, May 30

Katie Moore / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- In years past, Memorial Day wasn't just the unofficial start of summer. It was the start of New Orleans' tourism slow season.

This year, Memorial Day weekend brought more than 30,000 visitors to town and our tourism officials say this summer is looking bright.

Group after group of tourists Monday lined Washington Avenue, including two newlyweds and two honeymooners.

“I wanted to come the year Katrina hit. And unfortunately, I've never been able to make the trip after that,” said one of the honeymooners, Tapan Dasai.

Tour groups waited outside Lafayette Cemetery to get a glimpse of one of the city’s famous cemeteries.

“I thought, Memorial Day, it should probably be open. But, it's not. So, I was hoping to see a cemetery, but I took some pictures from out here at least,” said San Diego resident Mary Johnson, who was in town with her husband attending a business meeting.

The city's cemeteries are closed on Memorial Day. And while they didn't get to pay tribute to the dead, the tourists themselves are proof that the city's tourism industry is very much alive.

“The cycle has shifted a little bit where June and July tended to be our slower months, now that has shifted to August and September,” said Jennifer Day, public relations director for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

According to Day, the city welcomed 36,000 tourists to town this weekend, thanks to three big events before the actual holiday. New Orleans hosted a convention for the Rotary Club, a convention of microbiologists and the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience.

“We're hoping to leverage that momentum from last year and continue on this year and see another great year,” Day said.

The city welcomed more than 8 million visitors to New Orleans in 2010, a big achievement post-Katrina.

“We still are not back to our pre-Katrina numbers, which were about 10 million, although every single year is slowly climbing up, which is a good thing,” said Lea Sinclair, communications director for the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation.

The NOTMC recently began running ads with the theme, “You’re different here.” They spent nearly $5 million to run them in key cities across the country. They're targeting people like the honeymooners, the Desai's.

“We thought we'd go some place where we could have a great time and enjoy really good food,” he said.

They’re so-called "leisure travelers," the people who decide to make New Orleans a vacation destination, outside of big events like conventions and cruises.

The city has successfully recouped many of those big events hosted here, but they're hoping more people like the ones on Monday’s tour group will give it a try.

“I've never been here. I've heard it's a great place and it's proven to live up to its name,” Johnson said.

According to the Tourism and Marketing Corp., tourists spent a record amount in New Orleans last year, $5.3 billion.