Wendell Pierce Plays ‘The Concierge’ in New N.O. Tourism Ad

NEW ORLEANS – There is good news and bad news in the latest tourism industry status report from New Orleans & Company, the city’s destination marketing organization. 

On the positive side, vaccine distribution in Orleans Parish is over 45%. Land-based casino revenue was up 12% in April compared to the previous month. And visits from potential travelers to the New Orleans & Company website are steadily rising. 

Of concern, though: air travel to the city is still far below what it should be. The number of passengers screened through TSA checkpoints was down 45% in April 2021 vs. April 2019. And the amount of leisure and hospitality jobs in New Orleans and Metairie was down 33% in March 2021 vs. January 2020.

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The takeaway? Things are looking up but there’s a long way to go as the city waits for the return of conventions, festivals, special events, weddings, cruise passengers and international travelers. 

“With the CDC’s announcement that masks and social distancing are no longer required for fully vaccinated individuals, it feels as if we have turned the corner,” said New Orleans & Company President and CEO Stephen Perry in a release. “The worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us. However, we are focused on several critical components to ensure our industry’s recovery.”

Perry said the city needs to attract more leisure visitors on a more consistent basis. To that end, the organization is airing a stylish new ad campaign featuring actor Wendell Pierce directed by NOCCA Alumnus Phillip Youmans, who won the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival’s top prize for narrative film. The commercial began airing on May 5 in nearby “drive markets” on various media platforms.

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New Orleans hotels and restaurants were surprisingly busy in March and April because of an extended spring break season and lots of beautiful weather. One goal of this new campaign is to boost interest in the city during the summer, which is historically slower, and gear up for a busy fall.

“Thanks to big festivals and corporate and association groups, October 2021 is expected to be our best month since the start of the pandemic,” said Perry.

New Orleans & Company, meanwhile, is looking for more money to fund its marketing, promotion and incentive efforts. 

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“Our budgets have been slashed since March 2020,” said Perry. “We’re working to secure additional funding to fully carry our message to the world and offer incentives for our customers to return. We are active in the legislative session underway in Baton Rouge, as well as at the federal level with the U.S. Travel Association.”

Other items on the organization’s wish list: rebuilding the city’s hospitality workforce, distributing more vaccines and reducing crime in and around the French Quarter.

“Even by doing all of these things, some experts predict it could be up to three years before the travel industry returns to pre-pandemic levels,” said Perry. 

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