Propelled by busy festivals and conventions, the New Orleans tourism industry continued to grow in 2014. Both the number of visitors and the amount they spent in the city climbed, with the latter setting a new record.
New Orleans attracted 9.52 million visitors in 2014, about 240,000 — or 2.6 percent — more people than in 2013, according to a study released Monday.
The visitors spent $6.81 billion on entertainment, shopping, food, drinks and hotel stays during the year. That was 5.3 percent more than tourists spent in 2013 and the highest figure in the city’s history.
The findings are included in a study produced by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
The results of the New Orleans Area Visitor Profile are obtained by using hotel occupancy figures, calls to a sampling of local residents to ask whether they had friends or relatives stay with them, and an estimate of the number of people who did not stay in hotels when they visited. The latter is generated by surveying visitors at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and other destinations.
Visitor numbers have been climbing steadily since plummeting to 3.7 million in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina. But New Orleans still is short of reaching the record 10.1 million visitors it hosted in 2004. Those visitors spent about $4.9 billion.
The tourism industry has set a goal of attracting 13.7 million visitors and creating $11 billion in direct spending by the city’s 300th anniversary in 2018.
The Area Visitor Profile study found that 62.6 percent of the visitors to New Orleans last year were making return trips. The largest number of visitors traveled to the city in the second quarter of the year, a period that included the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and a busy convention schedule.
Overall, most visitors, 77.2 percent, traveled to New Orleans for vacation or pleasure; 12.4 percent came to town for a meeting or convention; and 10.4 percent came for general business, according to the study. About 1.5 percent of the total visitors were cruise passengers.