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April 10, 2012

New Orleans Convention business back on track after Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans’ meeting business suffered severely following Hurricane Katrina. But Nikki Moon, the New Orleans’ Convention and Visitors Bureau’s vice president of convention sales, says the Big Easy is coming back with a vengeance and will soon challenege the country’s other top meeting destinations.

In 2011, New Orleans’ tourism industry welcomed 8.75 million visitors, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2010. Of those visitors, 23.5 percent were in New Orleans for a convention, association, trade show, corporate meeting or general business travel. Fifty-nine percent of business travelers extended their stay for pleasure for an average of 2.1 days.

“Not only are the [meetings] bookings up, but the interest level is very high,” Moon says. “There has been a substantial amount of pent-up demand, and our bookings have been up dramatically over the past couple of years. Looking to the future [it’s] solid.”

Moon says that New Orleans is once again being put into the rotation of all the major meetings that had once come to the destination over the past several decades.

In fact, The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch stated that the New Orleans region was the number one most improved market for business in the United States, rising 44 positions from 77th in 2010 to 33rd in 2011.

In preparation for this influx of business, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is undergoing a huge project. The original part of the building, which opened as an exhibit hall about 20 years ago, is having its main entrance redesigned. What was originally Hall A and the Ballroom are also being repurposed into a 60,000-square-foot state-of-the-art ballroom. The new space will be for major general sessions and serve a food-and-beverage function. It will open January 1, 2013.

As far as hotels go, the biggest renovation currently underway is at the Sheraton New Orleans. It is undergoing a massive top-to-bottom overhaul, which will be completed in the first quarter 2013.

The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau is also being honored for excellence in service. Connie Campbell, tourism senior sales manager for the New Orleans CVB, was presented with the Chairman’s Award in the Non-Hotel category at the Receptive Services Association of America’s (RSAA) 2012 Stanley Awards. The award acknowledges the New Orleans CVB, and specifically Campbell, for exceptional service when working with U.S. receptive tour operators, who are responsible for contracting with overseas tour wholesalers to provide customized travel packages for international visitors.

RSAA held their 21st Annual Summit in New Orleans February 7-9, which attracted almost 200 participants from around the country to partake in interactive educational sessions and one-on-one appointments.


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