[StBernard] New Hospitality Task Force Wants to Recession-Proof New Orleans Tourism

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Apr 8 18:25:31 EDT 2009

New Hospitality Task Force Wants to Recession-Proof New Orleans Tourism

April 07, 2009

In order to stave off the effects of the global economic downturn on its
local economy, New Orleans has formed a new 17-member task force charged
with growing tourism in the Big Easy, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Laundrieu
announced last week.

Because the recession has been slow to hit New Orleans, Landrieu has charged
the task force-called the New Orleans Hospitality Strategic Task Force-with
developing a proactive "master plan" that will minimize the economic impact
once tourism to New Orleans eventually and inevitably slows-probably in 2010
and 2011.

"With budget deficits and the economic recession, tourism revenue and jobs
are now more important than ever," Landrieu said in a statement. "Through
this master planning process, we can best position ourselves to minimize the
negative impacts on businesses that rely on tourists and enhance our ability
to create jobs and attract visitors."

Landrieu's task force will begin by analyzing New Orleans' tourism industry,
which is the state's second largest, generating in New Orleans alone between
$250 million and $300 million in annual tax revenue, according to the New
Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, and approximately $5
billion in annual visitor spending. From there, it plans to develop new
marketing programs and attractions-including festivals and fairs-designed to
increase visitor numbers and create new travel industry jobs.

"We are going to look at the 'Gross Hospitality Product,'" said Task Force
Co-Chair Doug Thornton, senior vice president of SMG. "We are going to
answer the question, 'What are the key measurements that determine the
success of the New Orleans tourism industry?'"

Among Landrieu's 17 task force members are Mavis Early, executive director
of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association; Bob Johnson,
president/general manager of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center; and
Steven Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention
and Visitors Bureau.

To fund his task force's work, Landrieu will seek $250,000 in state, local
and private funding. In addition, he will lobby against Gov. Bobby Jindal's
recommended executive budget, which proposes transferring funding for a
number of Louisiana events-such as the Sugar Bowl and the New Orleans
Bowl-from state general funds to self-generated tourism funds, thereby
decreasing the state's available pool of tourism marketing dollars.

"For every dollar the state spend on tourism advertising, the office returns
$17 to state coffers," Landrieu said. "If you want to grow the economy, this
is one area where spending more makes sense."

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