Tourism is Economic Development

In New Orleans they go hand in hand.

New Orleans is world-famous for its cultural treasures, special people and unforgettable hospitality. I have learned that there are two types of travelers in the world: those who can’t wait to visit New Orleans for the first time and those who can’t wait to come back. 

With increasing globalization and connectivity, dozens of cities are in fierce competition for visitors and the economic impact that comes along with them. Travelers and meetings do not just show up. Every event, conference, convention and visitor must be fought for and earned, and we can never take their significant economic impact for granted.

Today visitors, event organizers and meeting attendees have choices and motivations for how they choose a destination, especially in a highly competitive global environment emerging from a pandemic. It takes innovative marketing, PR and sales strategies, as well as years of relationship-building, to compete for and win their business for New Orleans. And as soon as we win the business, we immediately shift our focus to earning their repeat business.

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That is the role of New Orleans & Company, the official destination sales and marketing organization for New Orleans’ tourism industry. Since 1960, we have been working to inspire and encourage travel to the city for the economic, social, and community benefit of New Orleans and its residents. Travel unites and knocks down barriers…and few places do that better than New Orleans.

New Orleans & Company works on behalf of its 1,100 members and our community to attract major conferences, conventions and events. In 2022, we welcomed 17.53 million visitors who spent $9.1 billion. In 2019, that number was 19.75 million visitors, with $10 billion of spending.

Those visitors directly contribute to an industry that generates nearly 40% of the city’s operating budget. Without funds generated by New Orleans tourism, every family in Louisiana would pay thousands of dollars more per year in taxes.

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Many people may not think of it this way, but tourism is economic development. Tourism drives our economy, boosts infrastructure, instills civic pride and provides lifelong career opportunities. The things that make our city an attractive place to visit can also make it an attractive place to live, work and invest.

New Orleans’ tourism industry employs 75,000 individuals, providing a livelihood for people from every neighborhood. Those jobs and careers come in many forms: chef, general manager, sales director, driver, publicist, concierge, accountant, artist, musician, mixologist, housekeeper, caterer, pilot, flight attendant, tour guide, event planner, retail associate, security director, sommelier, host/hostess, valet, food/beverage director, customer service agent, graphic designer, engineer, entertainer, gaming dealer, creative director, marketer, CEO and more. 

Each role provides an opportunity to be an ambassador for our hometown and preserve and strengthen our culture.  While a visit to New Orleans is always packed with unforgettable experiences, it is often the memory of a special New Orleanian encountered along the way that makes a visit so special.

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We know that visitors are drawn to New Orleans for the same reasons residents enjoy living here — welcoming people, incredible food, music, celebrations and love of life. That’s why, now more than ever, New Orleans & Company is advocating for things that build a stronger community, such as infrastructure, quality early childhood education and care, affordable housing for culture bearers, workforce development, connectivity, public safety, cleanliness, and access to healthcare and mental healthcare.

Building the strongest community for the people who live and work here will make New Orleans a compelling place for people to visit for generations to come.

We believe that New Orleans is the most remarkable, unique and welcoming city in the world and is built to host major conferences, meetings and events. We must maintain our place as a preemminent destination for some of the world’s most iconic events. To join our mission, visit

Walt Leger III is the president and CEO of New Orleans & Company. He is an attorney and former elected official, having served 12 years in the Louisiana Legislature, eight of those years as the speaker pro tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives.


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