New Orleans welcomed approximately 500,000 more visitors and approximately $300 million in additional visitor spending in 2008 compared to 2007, according to a survey of Crescent City visitors conducted by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center on behalf of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
The survey, the results of which were released last month, found that the number of visitors to New Orleans increased to 7.6 million in 2008 from 7.1 million in 2007. Visitor spending, meanwhile, increased to $5.1 billion in 2008 from $4.8 billion in 2007.
Because the U.S. economy began its downward spiral in late 2008, local tourism officials have said they're cautiously optimistic about visitors and visitor spending in 2009.
"It is encouraging that our aggressive sales, marketing, public relations, branding and advocacy work has resulted in increased visitor spending and annual visitor numbers that are closer to pre-Katrina levels of 8.5 million," New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO J. Stephen Perry said in a statement. "New Orleans has more convention business booked for 2009 compared to 2008, and great values and special events to attract leisure visitors this year. However, the national environment for leisure and business travel, as well as attendance at our booked meetings, remains extremely unpredictable. We must continue our work to secure funding for marketing and promotion, help build attendance for meetings and conventions, and create compelling reasons for visitors to choose New Orleans."
Other key findings, according to the University of New Orleans survey:
• 90.8 percent of respondents said they would be likely or very likely to recommend New Orleans as a destination to family and friends.
• Visitors who came for vacation/pleasure spent an average of $598 per trip, while those who came for an association/convention/tradeshow spent an average of $940 per trip.
• Overnight visitors stayed an average of 4.6 nights in 2008, versus 3.8 nights in 2007.
• 75.1 percent of visitors came for vacation/pleasure, 9.8 percent for a convention/tradeshow and 15.1 percent for a corporate meeting/business.
• The proportion of business visitors who extended their stay for pleasure was 44.9 percent, with an average extension of two nights.
"While other destinations suffered, New Orleans was one of the very few tourist destinations to actually increase visitation in 2008," said New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation President and CEO Sandy Shilstone. "Our calendar, like our po-boys, was overstuffed in 2008, and our efforts paid off."