The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) presented the plan for its annual campaign yesterday to members of the hospitality industry. Its theme is “Follow Your NOLA” and it targets the “experiential discoverers,” which according to NOTMC’s agency, Dentsu America, is a demographic that’s not so much dependent on age, but on its curiosity about life. These travelers like to explore and seek out new experiences. Their life is an exploration full of endless discoveries, and trying out new things, which they then share with others via word of mouth, and especially through social media.
They like to travel, and they do…a lot.
Interestingly, the target of this campaign are not people under 25, which I guess leaves out the frat house and many young Bourbon Street patrons. Most are from 35 to 65. They are male and female and come from a variety of income levels. The unifying idea is that these are people who value authenticity, will travel to feel it, and who want to discover new experiences, hopefull, in New Orleans.
I’m pleased to see that the NOTMC and its agency have chosen to make New Orleans music a specific attraction in their campaign (it’s about time!). In the past, New Orleans music was in the background; this time, it’s right up front with food, art, history, architecture and various and sundry activities.
There’s a 30-second and 15-second television spot that’ll be shown in drive-in markets throughout Louisiana, on the Florida Gulf Coast, Mississippi and Alabama (curiously, no one in Arkansas seems to drive in to come to New Orleans, nor do people in Texas, who don’t drive, they fly).
I also thought it was interesting that the targeted fly-in markets didn’t include New York and California (Baltimore was the furthest east coast city that’s been included in the campaign). The information on markets was gleaned from tourism research and from the Louis Armstrong International Airport. Fly-in cities included Milwaukee, Baltimore, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Tampa, Denver, Charlotte, Nashville and Kansas City …almost all of these cities have a non-stop flights to New Orleans via Southwest Airlines. They hopefully did their research, but to tell you the truth, I’ve always found that visitors from the northeast are always a lot more open to the city than anyplace in the South. Mark Romig, NOTMC Director, informed me that targeted markets will be expanded in the future; higher-priced media markets (implying television) had to be eschewed due to budgetary restrictions, which they are hoping to solve with a proposed hotel tax increase.
Mayor Landrieu attended the presentation and didn’t hesitate to bring up a subject that’s been on everyone’s mind since last week: the horrific Mother’s Day second line shooting, which has made international and national headlines (we found out about the shooting from our daughter in London who called us with the news while we were attending Mothers’ Day festivities in Baton Rouge). This is a tourism marketer’s nightmare. If you can’t feel safe at a second line, then how can you feel safe in a street celebration like Mardi Gras?
We have to face the fact that news travels a lot faster than it used to. Any shootings are going to be in the public’s eye—and potential visitor to the city’s consciousness—quicker than you can blink.
Fortunately, I think we have a police force that’s been trained to quell violence during our street parties, for the most part. But how do you keep an idiot young knucklehead who’s probably so inured to the consequences of violence that shooting a gun into a crowd is basically like playing a violent video game? How can the cops stop this from happening? One stupid kid with a gun in a crowd can–and did–equal chaos, severe injury, and shock. At least for a week or so. And that’s a big problem. We need a much, much broader solution.
Jarvis de Berry, one of my favorite writers at the Times-Pic, uh, I mean NOLA.com, commented sagely on this subject. It’s really scary. We live in a gun-based and -tolerant, violent media-saturated culture where no one is that shocked anymore when a violent act takes place. We’ve become used to it. That’s the tragedy of it all.
As fascinating, maddening, fun, decadent, musical, culturally-rich and iconic as New Orleans is, we have a serious problem that we need to solve. No matter how much we promote our beautiful city to people who will appreciate it for the unique experience that it is, the easy availability of guns, combined with poor parenting, lack of education and job skills, combined with our city and nation’s tolerance of terrible violence, could realistically kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
I know it’s a much more complex subject, but it’s quite easy to see that the availability of firearms is a serious problem that has to be addressed in New Orleans and in the country as a whole. Poverty, lack of respect for life, thug life portrayed as a glamorous lifestyle, and young men with testosterone and no moral centers are a recipe for disaster. What’s it going to take to spur us to take some real, serious proactive action to prevent another disaster like Mother’s Day? Maybe if one of the knuckleheads targets the King of Rex instead of a crowd at a second line. Bet that will get some attention, and action.