Lifted by Super Bowl XLVII, the NCAA Women’s Final Four and the annual Essence Festival, the number of people visiting New Orleans rose to nearly 9.3 million in 2013, according to a survey released this week by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center.
The total was up 3 percent from 2012, when about 9 million visitors came to town, the university reported in its 2013 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile, an annual assessment of the tourism industry.
The visitor figure is obtained by using hotel occupancy figures, calls to a sampling of local residents to ask if 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 gathered from surveys of visitors at Armstrong International Airport, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and other destinations.
Visitors spent about $6.5 billion on lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment in 2013, 4.5 percent more than in 2012, according to the survey. That is the highest visitor-spending figure in the city’s history, according to the UNO report, which was commissioned by the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Super Bowl XLVII, played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3, 2013, contributed $262.8 million in direct spending to the total, according to a report produced last year by UNO’s Division of Business and Economic Research.
The spending figure is based on visitors’ answers to questions about how much they have spent or expect to spend while in town.
Despite the gains, the number of people visiting New Orleans still is lower than before Hurricane Katrina. In 2004, the year before the storm, 10.5 million people visited the city.
But they spent only about $4.9 billion that year, or $466 each. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $575 per visitor, still less than the $698 per visitor generated in 2013, according to the survey.
The city has set a goal of attracting 13.7 million visitors and generating $11 billion in spending by 2018, the city’s tricentennial.
The UNO study also found that most of the people who visited New Orleans in 2013, 57.5 percent, had traveled to the city before. Nearly 64 percent of visitors were between the ages of 35 and 64.