New Orleans raised its tourist count in 2013, hovering just short of the all-time record

April 23 2014 | Latest News
By Mark Waller, | The Times-Picayune

New Orleans attracted 9.28 million visitors in 2013, slightly besting the 2012 tally and replacing that year as the second-highest tourist count on record. An estimate of what all the visitors spent, however, showed an all-time high of $6.47 billion.

A study produced annually by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation revealed the latest numbers Tuesday.

The 9.01 million visitors counted in 2012 prompted a celebration by tourism industry officials and Mayor Mitch Landrieu a year ago when the number reached a post-Hurricane Katrina high and the second highest overall. While 2013, the year New Orleans hosted its 10th Super Bowl, showed a continued increase, it still fell short of the 2004 record of 10.1 million visitors, though spending that year was lower at $4.9 billion.

Results from the Super Bowl itself showed that while the year's highest profile event in the city was a major draw in multiple respects, the amount that visitors spent for the Super Bowl was perhaps a larger factor than the number of visitors the NFL's championship game attracted. A study after the event concluded that it drew 133,145 people and drove $480 million in spending.

After Katrina, visitation to New Orleans dropped precipitously, to 3.7 million tourists in 2006, but has gradually increased since.

The latest version of the New Orleans Area Visitor Profile breaks the numbers into several factors:
• Lodging spending increased 8 percent.
• Restaurant spending increased 3.2 percent.
• Spending in bars and nightclubs rose 6 percent.
• Of visitors surveyed, 77.2 percent were traveling for vacation or pleasure.
• Trade shows, conventions or corporate meetings drew another 13 percent.
• General business travelers made up 9.8 percent.
• Of the business travelers, 55.4 percent extended their stays for leisure, for an average of two nights.
• Cruise ship passengers made up 2.1 percent of all visitors and stayed an average of two nights.
• Among all visitors, 17.2 percent had incomes of $150,000 or more, and 20.6 percent had incomes above $100,000.
• About 42.5 percent of the visitors were first-time visitors while 57.5 percent were repeat visitors.
• The top markets for visitors making overnight stays from outside Louisiana were Texas, Florida, California and Mississippi.
• By age, visitors between ages 50 and 64 percent made 35.6 percent of visitors, those ages 35-49 made up 28.1 percent, the 25-34 group represented 17.8 percent, 65 and older was 12.7 percent and 18-24 was 5.9 percent.
• The average overnight stay was 4.2 nights.
• Overnight visitors staying in hotels showed a slight decrease, to 59.5 percent.
• The average group of visitors was three people.
• About 27.2 percent of hotel visitors made their reservations through hotel web sites, while 21.3 percent used travel web sites and 12.6 percent called hotels directly.
• About 49.3 percent of visitors arrived by their personal vehicles while 45.6 percent traveled by air.
An announcement about the 2013 numbers included statements from Mayor Landrieu, who said, "New Orleans is on a roll and we're thrilled that visitors across the globe are taking notice," and New Orleans tourism industry leaders.
John Williams, dean of the business school at UNO, focused on the showing by repeat visitors.
"The past five years have demonstrated incredibly strong growth in the number of visitors and their spending, with repeat visitation of 57.5 percent as evidence that New Orleans has a great formula for visitor satisfaction," Williams said.
Stephen Perry, president of the convention bureau, emphasized the meaning of the tourism industry to the New Orleans area's economy.
"The more than 9 million visitors in 2013 pumped a record of $6.47 billion in spending directly into our city," Perry said.
"That money contributes greatly to state and local economies and supports jobs for more than 78,000 New Orleanians from every neighborhood."

Mark Romig, president of the tourism marketing group, addressed the idea that tourism has expanded beyond the French Quarter and Bourbon Street in particular.

"The 2013 report shows that visitors are exploring more and more of our city and experiencing our unique culture and neighborhoods from the Bywater to MidCity to the Riverbend," Romig said.