Editor’s Note: This is thesecond in a 15-part series (appearing on Lodgingmagazine.com each Monday)
examining the performance of various markets in the United States. The
following is courtesy of Deloitte’s “Hospitality Vision US Performance Review.”
In New Orleans, city boosters are feeling a positive momentum.
In 2010, hotel demand grew the fastest of any market followed by STR. In 2011, that stellar growth leveled off, as RevPAR rose only 3.6 percent for the year-to-November, while occupancy actually declined -1.1 percent. Average room rates increased a slight 4.7 percent to $122.48.
According to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOCVB), in the first half of 2011, the city had a 7.7 percent increase in visitors, evidence that tourism is s lowly inching closer to pre-Katrina levels. (In 2004, New Orleans had a record-breaking 10.1 million visitors). Of the 4.8 million visitors through summer 2011, 77.2 percent were visiting for leisure, 14.4 percent attended conventions, associations, corporate meetings, and trade shows, and 8.4 percent were in New Orleans for general business.
They spent a total of $3.1 billion, a boost of more than 10 percent over January-June 2010. Now, the city has plans to attract 13.7 million visitors by 2018.
STR reports that the city had 35,194 rooms in the spring of 2011, about 4,000 rooms shy of its capacity before the storm. But in the past year, 17 new hotels were in preplanning stages. Even more significant, a few “new” hotels reopened. For example, after a $275-million redesign and revitalization, the Hyatt Regency New Orleans put 1,193 renovated rooms back in the market, while doubling its meeting and exhibition space.31 The 1,622-room Hilton New Orleans Riverside spent nearly $100 million rebuilding and is now experiencing or exceeding pre-Katrina level ADRs (NOCVB).
In September, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau announced that a joint venture between Carey Watermark Investors Incorporated and HRI Properties would invest more than $45 million refurbishing the Chateau Bourbon Hotel in the historic French Quarter, a prime location for visiting tourists and business travelers alike. Upon completion of the renovation, expected to be in the second quarter of 2012, the property will be renamed the Hyatt French Quarter hotel, through a franchise agreement with an affiliate of Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
New Orleans certainly continues to know how to throw a party. More than one million people visited for Mardi Gras (NOCVB). In April, the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association reported that the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center kicked off the spring season with all of its 10 halls occupied for the first time since July 2010. During April and May, more than 136,000 people attended 13 events at the convention center, generating nearly 186,000 room-nights (an 18 percent increase from the year before). Among the organizations holding conferences in 2011 were the American College of Cardiology, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Public Transportation Association.
Now, New Orleans is preparing for major sporting and cultural events that promise to boost tourism trade. Over the next 18 months, the city will host college football's national championship game, national basketball tournaments, and the 2013 Super Bowl. In April, the Port of New Orleans will welcome a fleet of tall ships and military vessels as part of a bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812. Also in the spring, an air show featuring the Navy's Blue Angels is expected to draw more than 100,000 people.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that both TripAdvisor and Travel + Leisure
recognized New Orleans as a premier travel destination in lists released in July 2011. Also, subscribers to Corporate & Incentive Travel magazine and Association Conventions & Facilities magazine once again recognized the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for superior customer service with an "Award of Excellence" and the "Distinctive Achievement Award." Meetings and Conventions magazine named NOCVB one of the top five CVBs in the world.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport got off to a strong start in 2011 after posting its seventh straight year-over-year gain in February (according to figures for the first two months of the year). The airport handled 621,220 travelers in February 2011 compared with 618,534 in February 2010. The number of passengers leaving the airport was up 10.3 percent from the prior year; the number arriving was up 9.5 percent.