Road Map for Tourism

January 22 2010 | Latest News
Road Map for Tourism

Times-Picayune Editoral

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Orleans has a singular culture and rich traditions that have made our region a premier destination for travelers. But 4 1/2 years after Hurricane Katrina, the impact of the storm and the recession are hurting tourism.

It's encouraging, then, that local and state leaders in the tourism industry have developed a long-term strategy to try to lure more visitors here and revitalize one of our most important economic engines.

After nine months of study, the Hospitality Strategic Task Force is proposing to merge the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. with the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau -- a move set to take place in March. That makes sense. Having two separate entities with essentially the same goals diluted resources and the focus of the city's marketing efforts. The task force also recommended focusing on luring more tourists in the 18 to 35 age groups, who have the greatest potential for return trips.

But the plan's most ambitious piece is the proposal to invest more than $400 million in the tourism members said funding would need to come from public and private sources and are vowing to work to secure it. That will be a hard task as the state and the industry go through lean times.

But having a common vision is a significant accomplishment in itself. A similar comprehensive strategy in the 1970s helped guide the growth of New Orleans tourism over the next few decades.

Our circumstances have changed, though. In 2004, the year before Katrina, the city attracted 10 million visitors. That number fell to 7.6 million last year, yet tourism still provides 68,000 jobs in our area.

A new strategy to keep those jobs and grow the industry is welcome indeed.