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Katrina Anniversary Positive Media Coverage Generated by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau as of August 29,2007

3 September 2007

While the overall tone of the second anniversary media coverage focused on the recovery yet to take place, the New Orleans CVB, along with its global PR partner Weber Shandwick, was successful in gaining positive national press about the success of New Orlean’s tourism industry, our culture and resilience. Here are excerpts from print media around the country that appeared on the anniversary:

Gannett News Service

The New Orleans convention and tourism business is picking up, running about 70 percent of pre-Katrina levels this fall, said Steve Perry, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are showing signs of rebound,” Perry said. “We are ahead of pace in convention bookings. We will have a very strong fall and summer.”
The Saints will again open their National Football League home season Sept. 24 with a Monday Night Football broadcast by ESPN. “When the Saints get that kind of coverage, we actually see a major bump in calls and reservations the very next day,” Perry said. “It’s literally three hours of advertising.” Another good sign is the Sugar Bowl is already sold out. A week later, the Bowl Championship Series championship is on Jan. 7.


In 2004, a record 10.1 million visitors flocked to the city. Last year, 3.7 million visited. The number of leisure travelers is now at about 60% of pre-Katrina levels; meetings and conventions are at 70%, says Stephen Perry, head of the city’s Convention & Visitors Bureau. But several high-profile events — the sold-out Sugar Bowl and BCS National Championship Game among them — followed by an uptick in corporate and group bookings for coming years are signs that “people are now making decisions to return,” Perry adds. “The first year, everyone was running on adrenaline, and then it moved into ‘OK, we’re making the effort to start new things and do the rebuilding.’ Now that we’re hitting the two-year mark, we’re on the verge of things feeling like they did before. There’s a palpable shift in the mood of the city,” he says.

New Orleans’ historic core, which includes the French Quarter, the Garden District and other heavily touristed spots, didn’t get the flooding experienced in lower-lying areas. And new investment in hotels and restaurants in those areas has revitalized tourist infrastructure to the extent that “we marvel some days that it looks better than before Katrina,” Perry says. The CVB has launched an $8.5 million campaign to get that message out. But that’s scant comfort for some in the tourism arena, which is New Orleans’ No. 1 industry with almost 63,000 workers(down from 85,000 pre-Katrina).

Business at tour operator Grayline New Orleans is off 30% to 40%. But there are hopeful signs, including the return this summer of some European travelers, spurred perhaps by the buying power of the euro, says Grayline sales director Jim Fewell.

LA Times

One emerging bright spot is New Orleans’ tourist economy. Visitor figures are approaching 70% of pre-storm levels, said Stephen Perry, president of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau — a good sign for a city that relies on its cultural economy for about a third of its revenue. Medical conventions are returning in full force this fall, he said, and next year will bring the Sugar Bowl, as well as college football’s championship and the NBA All-Star Game.


Kelly Schulz, vice president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention
Center and Visitors Bureau, can tick off an impressive number of comeback
milestones, and speaks for many in acknowledging that tourism is the city’s
heart and soul. “We are not a city with a lot of Fortune 500 companies, ” says Schulz,
“We’re an historic city. We live and die by tourism and hospitality.”
The city has taken an aggressive approach to bringing back that business.
Since 2006, its “Forever New Orleans” campaign has graced billboards in 18
cities. In July, the city started buying ad space on the tray tables on US
Airways and America West Airlines planes. The convention center reopened for its first citywide convention in June 2006 after a $60 million renovation – a small price to pay, considering the city lost $2 billion in business during the time the facility was closed.
The Super Dome – site of Super Bowls and home to the New Orleans Saints
professional football team – received a $180 million renovation.
The city’s famous Mardi Gras drew 800,000 people this year after a weak 2006
showing. But its pre-storm levels were a million plus. On a broader basis,
however, visits are down sharply. The city attracted 10.4 million visitors
in 2004 but just 3.6 million in 2006.
The city has yet to regain all of its major convention customers, but it has
brought in some big ones, including the American College of Cardiology
Conference in March, which drew 26,000. “We’re really optimistic,” says Schulz, sounding optimistic. “The experience of coming here as a vacation traveler or business traveler is very much the same.

“That opinion is echoed throughout the hotel industry. All but about 4,000 of
the industry’s 38,000 plus rooms are back on the market. Through June of
this year, occupancy rates are up 6.9% from a year ago, but have not
returned to what they were before Katrina.

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