We love visitors to the city. We really do, despite the fact that some come to New Orleans with pre-conceived expectations of it being “party city,” and then proceed to drink to excess (drinking to have recreational fun is NOT the same as drinking to excess), trash the city streets, and acting like—shall we say boorish—while they are here.
I wonder how often if those types of tourists are those sorts of people who come back to New Orleans again and again. The visitor who come back to New Orleans repeatedly are those who are entranced more by the flavor, culture, music and charm of the city rather than the opportunity to get wasted whenever they can on the street (‘cause they probably can’t do that in their hometown).The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOCVB) recently announced that New Orleans hosted over 9.5 million visitors in 2014. This number came from a research study prepared for the bureau by the University of New Orleans, and is up from 9.3 million in 2013. The NOCVB’s goals are to at least top the 10.1 million visitors the city enjoyed the year before Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Times have certainly changed; New Orleans had positioned itself for decades as a convention city, and leisure travelers weren’t really the CVB’s concern back in the good ole days of massive conventions hosted in New Orleans. That changed drastically after Katrina, when years’ worth of conventions and meetings cancelled in the wake of the hurricane. Since then, the CVB and New Orleans Tourism Marketing have been pushing full throttle towards attracting more leisure travelers, and efforts are paying off.
According to the report, New Orleans had the most visitors during April and May, and to a lesser extent June. Those music festivals attract more visitors every year.
Even more important to note is that over 77 percent of visitors reported they were in New Orleans for vacation, and only about 12 percent were here to attend a convention.
The study said that most visitors (36 percent) are baby boomers, aged 50 to 64, with a median age of 57. A little over 28 percent were from the Gen-X generation (35 to 49).
This isn’t surprising: baby boomers have the most money to spend on leisure travel.
Most visitors are from drive-in markets: over 39 percent are from Louisiana outside New Orleans plus Mississippi, Texas and Florida.
The goal of the CVB is to sell conventions and to increase tourism, and numbers are looking good. But, of course, they feel they must do better.
But here’s another question: What’s the strategy to attract visitors who will come back again and again to the city who are more interested in enjoying our cultural assets, and whose orientation is preserving it rather than wrecking it?
Should we be marketing the city to potential visitors who are more likely to spend more money, stay here longer (average stay proclaimed by the current study was four days), and who are more appreciative of our culture?
Maybe we should think more about the quality of visitors and less about the quantity, or how many people we can cram into the city to put “heads in beds.”
We consistently need more efforts geared at foreign visitors. There may be less of them, but those international baby boomers have as much (or more) money to spend here; they stay longer (particularly during summer months) and there are more culturally attuned. I can also attest—because of the business that we’re in—that twenty-something visitors from foreign countries are more interested in the culture than their counterparts from this country. And they stay longer, and have more money to spend. What’s not to love?
I wish we had a long-range goal to attract a higher-quality visitor rather than just be geared to pumping up the numbers. Less visitors to trash the city, who will spend more money, have more respect for our culture, and who will stay longer.
Is that a good trade-off? What’s your opinion?