This afternoon I was lucky enough to be able to leave the office and trek out to the Fair Grounds to take care of a little business. Oh what a gorgeous day! No clouds, cool temps, no humidity, sunshine and a breeze. It’s these days in New Orleans that not only make you glad you live here—you’re glad just to be alive. Wish you were here!
Jazz Fest anticipation is building to a fever pitch. Our regular visitors, Jazz Fest/New Orleans freaks Vlada (from Orange County) and her partner Steve (from Queens) arrive on Monday to begin their annual two-week stay with us. While they’re here, they gorge on everything New Orleans. First stop for Steve will be the Louisiana Music Factory, where he’ll be able to stock up on all the CDs he’s been reading about in the magazine and on OffBeat.com. Then he’ll hit the clubs every night for as late as he can stand it, until Jazz Fest starts. Then he has to make a choice on how late to stay out, so he can be sure to catch everyone he wants to see at the Fest. Vlada, on the other hand, is jonesing for crawfish. Just reading the word makes her salivate. And then there are the Drago’s char-grilled oysters, and Jacques-Imos, and Sabai, and Walter “Wolfman” Washington (congratulations to him for winning the Big Easy Lifetime Achievement Award), Tab Benoit and Irma Thomas.
Tonight we’re dining with another subscriber, John Jacobs and his wife at Ye Olde College Inn. They’ve never been to Rock ‘N’ Bowl or to the restaurant. Can’t wait to introduce them to the fried bread pudding there, and to Rock ‘N’ Bowl later. Trust me, even for someone like me who was raised on homemade bread pudding, that stuff is worth a visit.
Yesterday, two more subscribers from Calgary visited us while they were in town. They come in to New Orleans in non-festival season because they like New Orleans sans festivals, which is sort of par for the course for a lot of our readers. They love it any time, any season of year. As long as they get to listen to music!
If it were up to me, I’d have been promoting Louisiana with music for a long time (anyone who reads this blog knows that mantra—I’ve been saying this for a bazillion years). New Orleans is a lot more than Bourbon Street, something that unfortunately many people don’t know because they’ve come here to “play” and playing to them means getting wicked drunk and hitting Bourbon. It’s all well and good, but we need to draw attention to more than just that aspect of the city. We’re more than Mardi Gras, more than a Saints or a Hornets game, or a Final Four. We’ve got so much more here for people to get connected to. You can see a sports event in almost any other big city in the US. But you can’t experience New Orleans or Louisiana music and culture every day.
Music is a strong attractant. The success of the Jazz Fest and the growth of the French Quarter Fest are prime evidence of that theory. I’d love to see an analysis on the percentage of visitors to the state and the city the show the changes in international visitation related to music. Do those stats exist?
Long ago, when I worked for a research firm in Miami that specialized in the tourism industry, one of the best tools we had were the statistics gathered by the state of Florida that provided demographic information on family travel, origin of traveler, airport traffic (inside the terminals), and a lot more. I have heard from many sources that the two main reasons why visitors come here is for the food and music. There’s a lot of focus on food. What are we doing to use music as a year-round means of attracting people to visit. We’re more than Bourbon Street, or an annual festival.