NEW ORLEANS, LA – New Orleans hosted 4.9 million visitors in the first half of 2012, an increase of two percent over the same period in 2011. These visitors spent a total of $3.45 billion, a boost of 11 percent over January – June 2011. These figures are the result of the 2012 University of New Orleans (UNO) Hospitality Research Center’s 2012 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile, commissioned by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOCVB) and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC).
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “The UNO visitor study provides strong evidence of the continued upward trend of the New Orleans tourism industry. This growth is excellent news, demonstrating the resiliency of the industry and the importance the cultural economy plays in the overall economic health of our city and region. We’re talking jobs and valuable tax dollars. We expect these numbers and this important industry will continue to grow as we play host to an unprecedented series of national and international events, including Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.”
Of the 4.9 million visitors to date, 74.1 percent were visiting New Orleans for vacation/pleasure, 14.3 percent attended conventions, associations, corporate meetings and/or trade shows, and 11.7 percent were in New Orleans for general business. Of all visitors, 50 percent stayed in a hotel, while 26.6 percent were visiting friends and relatives. The average number of nights stayed by visitors was 4.1 nights. On the spending front, per-trip expenditures among visitors were up in all categories except for shopping. The largest jump in per-trip expenditures was in bars and nightclubs, with a 27.2 percent increase from the same period in 2011, and in lodging, with a 18.1 percent increase from 2011. More than half of business visitors to the New Orleans area (60 percent) extended their stay for pleasure for an average 2.1 days.
Tourism is one of New Orleans’ largest employers. According to UNO’s research for the full year 2011, New Orleans welcomed 8.75 million visitors, and visitor spending hit $5.47 billion, a significant increase over 2010 and the highest spending in the city’s history.
“The broad scope and elevated quality of activities in New Orleans is having a dramatic impact on repeat visitation. Repeat visitors (comprising 55.8 percent of all visitors) are dedicating time to take part in several activities during their visits.
Research results show that they are frequenting the World War II Museum, Audubon Zoo, Insectarium, Aquarium, New Orleans Museum of Art, parades, fine dining and casual dining more on repeat visits than on their initial visit as they seek to take part in the richness of the culture of New Orleans,” said John Williams, Co-Director of the UNO HRC.
The positive momentum achieved by New Orleans’ tourism industry in 2012 comes as city prepares to host Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013, the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four and the 2014 NBA Men’s Allstar Game.
“In an industry driven by perception and image, momentum matters,” said Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans CVB. The strong visitor numbers coincide with travelers selecting New Orleans for prominent awards. So far in 2012, New Orleans has been named one of the Top Cities in the United States and Canada (Travel + Leisure’s 2012 World’s Best Awards); Best U.S. city for shopping (Travel + Leisure); one of the most affordable cities in the U.S. for domestic travelers (TripAdvisor) and Best Large City for a Weekend Getaway (AAA Southern Traveler).”
The survey also revealed that while Louisiana was the top feeder market (12.6 percent) for New Orleans, the next most popular states for visitation in order were Texas (9.5 percent), Alabama (5.6 percent), California (5.5 percent) and Florida (5.3 percent). At 2012’s half year mark, 91.4 percent of respondents reported that they were very likely or likely to recommend New Orleans as a destination to their friends and family. Almost half (44.2 percent) of the respondents reported that this was their first visit to New Orleans.
“As we plan our marketing approach for 2013, these first half year results show that our use of both traditional and online media tools are working well as we communicate the authentic experience that New Orleans provides to visitors,” said Mark Romig, president and CEO of NOTMC. “We have an amazing product that gives us a competitive advantage over other destinations, and we will work to continue to aggressively market these authentic experiences and activate them through an urgency to visit.”