Tourism industry touts growth, warns of tax threat _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A float makes its way up Poydras Street during a parade marking National Travel and Tourism Week. Marching under the banner of "New Orleans Will," the parade featured hospitality worker, Mardi Gras Indians, floats and the Warren Easton marching band.. 78,000 people are employed in the hospitality sector in the New Orleans area and 9.28 million people visited the area last year.

The earlier, the better.

That’s the gist of a new advertising strategy unveiled Tuesday to draw more visitors to New Orleans early in the week. That’s when local hospitality officials say lines are shorter, crowds are smaller, and hotels and airfare are cheaper.

The latest blitz stems from a list on a BuzzFeed post that labeled Tuesday as the worst day of the week, according to Mark Romig, president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.

“We thought, ‘You know, in New Orleans, Tuesdays are pretty good,’ ” Romig said. “What about utilizing the opportunity to kind of flip the switch and say, ‘You can have a great Tuesday in New Orleans.’ ”

At an announcement near the French Market, local hospitality leaders — including American Sector restaurant chef Eric Cook and Bourbon Orleans Hotel general manager Mark Wilson — touted new early-week drink specials and lodging discounts that they’re rolling out to encourage more early-week visitors. Ideally, they’re looking to draw more visitors to the city Sunday through Thursday.

The so-called “Happy Tuesday” advertising campaign involves using social media to get people elsewhere thinking about how much better their day would be if they were in the Crescent City.

After the campaign was unveiled, the group’s Twitter handle responded to users who were tweeting about having a bad day.

“I just spilled coffee all over my desk, my dress and my chair,” tweeted a California woman. “I would say today is off to a fun and exciting start; how’s your Tuesday?”

“Sounds like you’re ‘sterin’ things up on this #HappyTuesday,” the group replied, accompanied by an image of some freshly shucked oysters.

Highlighting the benefits of an early-week visit makes sense for “trying to show people options,” said one local hospitality industry expert.

“Really what it’s doing is just letting people know that maybe you can’t afford it at prime time, but you could still get the same experience in the middle of the week,” said David Pearlman, an associate professor of hotel, restaurant and tourism administration at the University of New Orleans. “That way, you can afford it, and we can fill our hotel that’s kind of empty at this point.”

Average occupancy rates hover around 70 percent year-round, Romig said, fluctuating based on big events and convention schedules. After a busy weekend, he said, “you could literally have a mass checkout on a Sunday, and then we have occupancies in the low 20s, 30s, 40s.”

“We want to be able to step in and fill those hotel rooms and fill those restaurants,” he said. “The hoteliers will tell you that if they can have an impact on early to midweek, that’ll help their average occupancy on an annual basis.”

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.