Busy streets, crowded restaurants, and booked hotels are just a few of the influences Mardi Gras has on the city of New Orleans. Every spring, more than a million people from around the world travel to NOLA to join in the tradition. As purple and yellow glitter and sequined facemasks fill the streets, tourists are enriched in the culture of the historic city. It is the infamous magical experience of Mardi Gras that makes NOLA a major tourist location, and the five-day celebration definitely impacts local hoteliers.
Year after year, New Orleans hoteliers see a peak in occupancy, starting this year on Friday, Feb. 24 and ending with Fat Tuesday or Tuesday, Feb. 28. In 2016, occupancy rates on Friday and Saturday were 95 and 98 percent for downtown hoteliers.
During the five-day span, both tourists and locals are dedicated to celebration, which usually means they are more than willing to ditch their budget and spend some extra cash. Beating out New Year’s Eve and Halloween, Mardi Gras consistently brings in the highest ADR in downtown NOLA, averaging $100 to $200 more than a typical night, according to 2016 Expedia data.
Compared to the typical daily occupancy of only 70 percent, New Orleans hoteliers may face the challenge of maintaining personal connection with guests and ensuring a positive guest experience for this additional occupancy. So, how can hotel chains and independents maximize their profits while also ensuring a great customer experience during Mardi Gras?
The key is to find your hotel’s uniqueness, according to Expedia’s NOLA market manager Kerrison Thorpe. Providing your guests with an additional benefit, such as a complementary drink or late checkout can keep guests from feeling forgotten.
Royal Sonesta began greasing the poles of their balconies to stop guests from climbing up them, which has let to a “greasing of the poles” ceremonious event. Additionally, the Sheraton and Marriott are each placed in the center of festivities, surrounding the Meeting of the Courts, the culmination of the festivities at the rex Ball. Whether located in the heart of Mardi Gras or another festivity, a hotel’s creative aspect can go a long way.