New Orleans hotels near 90% capacity for Essence Fest, July 4 weekend

June 30 2022 | Latest News
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 5:02 PM UTC

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Even with rain and clouds swirling around the New Orleans metro area, Essence Festival attendees are focusing on the next four days filled with concerts, seminars, and fun.

“(It was) a pretty bad experience coming in because of the weather,” New York resident Melissa Beaujour said. “We got delayed over in Baton Rouge then we flew back in and after that it was good.”

The melancholy weather didn’t stop visitors from feeling something they haven’t felt since 2019.

“I can already feel in the airport just the excitement and the culture of Essence,” Houston resident Gabrielle Profit said. “Everyone is like ‘Are you here for Essence? Are you here for Essence?’”

It’s the first in-person Essence Fest in two years and officials at New Orleans & Co. expect the out-of-town crowds to be big.

Right now, their data shows hotel occupancy for the weekend could be near or above 90%. Forecasted daily occupancy among 16 hotels in the survey shows 73% occupancy on Thursday, 91% occupancy on Friday, 93% on Saturday, and 80% on Sunday.

“We are all here to enjoy the culture and the food and just vibe,” New York resident Chyanna Lundi said.

The festival expects tens of thousands of visitors for one of the largest celebrations of Black art and culture in the country. But until everything kicks off, people say they’re enjoying the city.

“We want to visit the small businesses and put our money into the small businesses,” Tampa resident Karita Lee said. “We are not looking for the corporate businesses.”

A lot of visitors say there’s more than enough to do while they wait for big-name talent to hit the Superdome stage.

More: Essence Fest returns to New Orleans celebrating Black music and culture

Nicki Minaj is headlining Friday night, Janet Jackson will take the stage Saturday and New Edition will perform on Sunday.

Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 Essence Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Sunday, July 8, 2018, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)(Amy Harris | Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

“I’m really looking forward to Janet Jackson’s performance. Who doesn’t want to see Janet?” Beaujour said.

And while there’s going to be a lot of attention on Essence Fest’s entertainment, people are also looking forward to the panels and comradery.

“Whatever they have to do, I’m going to do it. The king has to be seen,” Atlanta resident Alvin Farmer said.

Essence Festival will hold a free expo in the Morial Convention Center starting Friday. Visitors say the talks, meet and greets, and seminars are what set Essence apart from other events.

“It’s important for the empowerment of people, meeting people, networking,” Profit said.

And after 25-plus years, the festival’s unique experiences continue attracting familiar faces and newcomers.

“Somebody said I might have more days behind me than in front of me so I’m trying to enjoy those days in front of me,” Farmer said.