Last updated: 10:30 AM ET, Thu May 05 2016

New Orleans Sets Record for Visitor Spending in 2015

Destination & Tourism | New Orleans CVB | May 05, 2016

New Orleans Sets Record for Visitor Spending in 2015

WHY IT RATES: Not only did New Orleans set a record but the city did it in a year in which it did NOT host the Super Bowl, which always draws a lavish amount of spending. Impressive. – Rich Thomaselli, TravelPulse Senior Editor

PHOTO:  New Orleans is one of the few, great 24/7 cities in the world (Courtesy New Orleans CVB)

In 2015, visitors to New Orleans spent $7.05 billion dollars, a 3.5% increase compared to the visitor spending record set in 2014, and the city hosted 9.78 million visitors, a 2.7% increase compared to 2014.

The 2015 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile study, completed by the University of New Orleans (UNO) Hospitality Research Center for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) shows increases in both spending and visitation since Hurricane Katrina.

The survey showed that overnight visitors to the New Orleans area who stayed in hotels spent an average of $1,011 per person, per trip in 2015. Visitors stayed for an average of 4.2 nights and spent an average of $238 per person, per day.

READ MORE: 15 Free Things to do in New Orleans

“We are in a strong tourism growth curve stimulated by new investment in expanded marketing and sales fueling our fiercely competitive battle to draw leisure visitors, conventions and major special events. We are not only attracting more visitors, but more quality visitors, as evidenced by the solid increase in visitor spending to record levels. And with our state facing massive budget deficits and recession in a number of our traditional economic sectors, our greater New Orleans tourism industry is firmly entrenched as the state leader in job creation, state and local tax generation, and as the rapidly expanding catalyst for strong economic growth and opportunity that benefits every other business sector and the quality of life and state services for every Louisianan,” said Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

One example of the NOCVB’s strategy of attracting quality visitors is hosting IPW in June of this year. IPW is the travel industry's premier international marketplace and the largest generator of travel to the U.S. Between June 18 – 22, more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations from every region of the USA (representing all industry category components), and more than 1,300 international and domestic buyers and 500 travel journalists from more than 70 countries will visit New Orleans to conduct business negotiations that result in the generation of more than $4.7 billion in future travel to the U.S. New Orleans expects to see an increase in international visitation for the next three years after hosting IPW this year. The international visitors that the NOCVB is appealing to are known to stay longer and spend more money.

“Simply put, New Orleans is on a roll. Once again, our city has proven to be one of the best places in the world to visit. For the tenth consecutive year, New Orleans has seen a record-breaking increase in the number of visitors that are contributing billions of dollars to our economy. Thousands of local business owners, artists, musicians, producers, innovators and restaurateurs take pride in offering an authentic experience. We keep things fresh and alive here and because of that, business and leisure visitors from across the globe are coming back year after year.

This year is already off to a great start and we look forward to welcoming visitors for Essence Festival, the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience and the hundreds of other special events throughout the year,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

“One of the key takeaways for us is the robust repeat visitor numbers. Only 37.1 percent of people responded that they were first time visitors in 2015, indicating that 62.9 percent are repeat visitors. And the comments were overwhelmingly positive with many promises to return for future visits,” said Mark Romig, President and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

In 2004, New Orleans welcomed 10.1 million visitors, who spent $4.9 billion. In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina, visitor numbers dropped to 3.7 million, with $2.9 billion in visitor spending. Due to the efforts of the New Orleans CVB and the NOTMC, visitor numbers have steadily increased, but more importantly, visitor spending has more than doubled since Katrina. Since 2010, visitation spending in New Orleans has increased by nearly 33%. 

“The tremendous increase in visitor spending in New Orleans over several years is evidence that the city has become widely recognized for the elevated quality of its unsurpassed restaurants, hotels, festivals, and attractions.  The ongoing strength of this heightened spending trend is confirmed by the key indicators of growth in the research study results,” said Dr. John Williams, Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of New Orleans.

The UNO research for 2015 showed that the cumulative 3.5 percent increase in spending activity was felt in all categories: 

  • Lodging spending increased by 3.7 percent
  • Entertainment spending increased by 5.4 percent
  • Shopping spending increased by 2.7 percent
  • Restaurant spending increased by 3.3 percent
  • Spending in bars and nightclubs increased by 3.1 percent
  • Visitors who stayed overnight in a hotel spent an average of $238 per person per day
  • Visitors who came to New Orleans for the day spent an average of $188 per person

The peak period for visiting New Orleans in 2015 was the second quarter, which can be related to Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest and conventions. The primary purpose of their visit remained similar to what it has been over the last five years:?

  • 76.7 percent of visitors surveyed, including day trippers, were in New Orleans for vacation/pleasure
  • 13.1 percent of visitors surveyed were in New Orleans for association, convention, tradeshow or corporate meetings
  • 10.2 percent of visitors surveyed were in town for general business
  • Cruise visitors comprised about 1.5 percent of the total number of visitor responses, and nearly all (83.5 percent) stayed in New Orleans before or after their cruise. The average number of nights in the city was 2.2

The 2015 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile report also found:?

  • Visitation from Louisiana, outside of the New Orleans Metro Area, and Texas tied as the top feeder market in 2015 at 12.7 percent each. The percentage of Louisiana visitors returned to similar levels to those seen in years prior to 2014. The next most popular states of origin were California (6.5 percent), Florida (6.2 percent), and Mississippi (5.1 percent).
  • When considering overnight visitation only, the top feeder markets in 2015 were Texas (13.8 percent), California (7.6 percent), Louisiana outside of New Orleans (6.7 percent), and Florida (6.6 percent).
  • The proportion of visitors with income of $200,000 or more reached the highest figure since 2012 (10.4 percent); 24.2 percent of visitors had a household income of $100,000 - $149,000, and the percentage of visitors with an income of under $25,000 continued to decrease
  • The percentage of single visitors to New Orleans, not widowed or divorced, dropped slightly from 18.3 percent in 2014 to 17.2 percent in 2015
  • 4.1 percent of respondents identified themselves as LGBT
  • There was a slight increase in respondents who reported having children under the age of 18 living in their household (22.8%)
  • Visitors age 50-64 made up the largest demographic for 2015 (36.1 percent), followed by 35-49 (29.8 percent). During 2015 the percentage of respondents in the 25-34-years-old group represented the lowest figure since 2010 (15.3 percent), while the 65-years or older group had the largest proportion in the last six years (14.6 percent).
  • Average number of people per travel party was 3.1
  • The majority of visitors surveyed arrived in their personal vehicle (47.8 percent), while 46.2 percent arrived by airplane

SOURCE: New Orleans CVB press release

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