Visitors to New Orleans spent more than $7 billion in 2015, beating the previous year’s record, while the city also saw a gain in the overall number of visitors, officials said Tuesday.
The city hosted 9.78 million visitors in 2015, up 2.7 percent from 2014. The figures edged closer to the 10.1 million people who traveled to New Orleans in 2004, the year before Hurricane Katrina’s devastation upended the local tourism industry.
After Katrina, New Orleans’ visitors number for 2006 dropped to 3.7 million people, who spent about $2.9 billion.
The number of visitors also climbed statewide last year. Louisiana had 28.9 million visitors, up from 28.7 million a year earlier, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office said last month. Last year’s visitors spent $11.5 billion compared with $11.2 billion in 2014, a 2.7 percent increase.
All told, the state’s hospitality industry generated $843 million in state tax revenue in 2015, compared with $836 million the year before, putting the sector among the state’s top five employers, Nungesser said.
On Tuesday, Nungesser joined other state and local officials and hospitality leaders in a parade through the French Quarter to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week.
More than 100 people, largely hospitality workers and tourism boosters, were joined by stilt walkers, a brass band and Carnival staples such as members of the Krewe of the Rolling Elvi.
Tourists and other onlookers watched from the sidewalk and hotel balconies, many holding camera phones to capture the action. The Edna Karr High School marching band played periodically, drawing more people outside.
“I’ve never seen a parade in New Orleans before,” said Judy Clayton, who was in town from Ohio and was staying nearby in the Quarter.
At a news conference afterward at Woldenberg Park along the Mississippi River, Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that money spent locally had a far-reaching impact on the regional economy.
“From all over the world into the city of New Orleans, that money gets spread through virtually every business, every family, every store and every shop,” Perry said.
In 2015, visitors staying in hotels spent a per-trip average of $1,011 apiece, staying for an average of 4.2 nights, according to a recent study by the University of New Orleans’ Hospitality Research Center.
UNO’s annual New Orleans Area Visitor Profile assesses the tourism industry by using hotel occupancy figures and a sampling of local residents to estimate how many people likely stayed with friends or relatives. Some data are gathered from surveys of visitors at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and other destinations.
The largest share of New Orleans’ 2015 visitors, about 36.1 percent, were ages 50 to 64, according to the report.
When considering only overnight trips, New Orleans’ top feeder markets in 2015 were Texas, 13.8 percent, and California, 7.6 percent.
At Tuesday’s event, Perry touted the city’s success in landing a coveted event that’s coming next month: the IPW, the U.S. Travel Association’s annual trade show, which is returning to New Orleans after 14 years.
The convention is expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees from 73 countries, including more than 1,300 international and domestic travel buyers and hundreds of travel writers.
At Woldenberg Park, Perry praised hospitality workers in the crowd for being on the front lines of the city’s efforts to attract more visitors.
“We are different here because we are different, and we do it like nobody else,” he said.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.