PHOTO: New Orleans' Bourbon Street. (photo via Flickr/Lars Plougmann)
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast more than a decade ago, New Orleans has welcomed more than 10 million visitors.
According to figures released by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOCVB) last week, the Big Easy hosted a record 10.45 million visitors in 2016, easily surpassing the previous 2004 record of 10.1 million. The record number of tourists also spent an all-time high $7.41 billion in the process. That record number signals a 5.1 percent jump from 2015.
The city hosted 9.78 million visitors who spent a combined $7.05 billion in 2015, and while the city welcomed 10.1 million visitors in 2004, those guests only spent $4.9 billion.
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The record 10.45 million visitors last year represents a 6.9 percent increase over 2015.
The historic year was aided by a comprehensive effort to expand New Orleans' appeal, as well as the addition of multiple nonstop flights from Europe.
"These achievements are the result of a strategy that attracts a combination of carefully targeted convention business and leisure travelers through tactics which leverage paid media, earned public relations exposure and special events to market New Orleans to the world," NOCVB president Stephen Perry said in a statement.
In his own statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the achievement "a testament to our city's unique ability to host tourists and major events like no other."
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Spending at restaurants (up 12 percent), bars and nightclubs (up 12.3 percent) increased considerably in 2016 compared to the previous year, while lodging spending increased by 2.2 percent last year compared to 2015.
On the heels of a successful 2016, the city is making a push toward next year when New Orleans will celebrate its 300th birthday. According to the Times-Picayune, the city has set a lofty goal of attracting 13.7 million visitors in 2018.
It remains to be seen whether the city will host enough visitors to meet its goal next year, but with another Mardi Gras celebration in the books and the destination having hosted the NBA All-Star Game for the second time in four years last month, New Orleans appears poised to build on its record-breaking year during 2017.