Ten Years of Growth

Tourism flourishing in the decade since Katrina

In the city that care forgot, Katrina is something everyone remembers. This 10-year anniversary brings memorials for the lost and celebrations of renewal. And tourism has played a vital role in the rebuilding.

In 2006, the first full year after Katrina, New Orleans had only 3.7 million visitors. Year after year that number has climbed, and in 2014 there were 9.52 million visitors according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

To accommodate those tourists, hotel occupancy rates and the resulting revenue are also up. There are almost 39,000 hotel rooms, 10,000 more than at the end of 2005. And there are ongoing debates over short-term rentals like Airbnb, where an analysis reported by The Advocate shows at least 1,764 houses or apartments are being rented on a year-round basis rather than occupied by permanent residents.

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Louis Armstrong International Airport has expanded service with direct flights on Spirit Airlines between New Orleans and Las Vegas starting in November, and also recently began domestic flights with Branson Air Express and Allegiant Air. Internationally, Panama’s Copa Airlines began service between New Orleans and Panama City in June.

These increases in travel translate into record-breaking business for Greater New Orleans. The 9.52 million visitors in 2014 spent $6.81 billion, a 5.3 percent increase over 2013 and the highest spending in the city's history, according to the 2014 New Orleans Area Visitor Profile study, completed by the University of New Orleans (UNO) Hospitality Research Center.

"The tremendous linear increase in tourism spending in New Orleans over the past six years has created exponential growth of fine restaurants, elegant hotel rooms, festivals, events, and attractions,” said John Williams, PhD, Dean of College of Business Administration at UNO. “New Orleans, as a result of this tourism-related transformational change, is now recognized as one of the most culturally desirable cities in the nation to visit and call your home. This transformation will prove to be a key element of a heightened quality of life for current residents of New Orleans as well as in attracting future residents as New Orleans seeks expansion in other industries such as technology and health care."

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The spending looks to continue to increase with New Orleans’ reputation being bolstered by travel resources and publications. In 2014 alone, New Orleans won multiple accolades such as: “A World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure; “4th Best State in the U.S.” by Thrillest.com for food and drink; one of the “Best Convention Cities” by USA Today Readers and 10Best; and Condé Nast Traveler ranked New Orleans as one of the “Best American Cities for Foodies”.

The devastation of the levee failures brought international attention to New Orleans and a new kind of “disaster-tourism” we had never experienced. But in the years since, we have shown the world why our culture thrives and our hospitality is legendary. 


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