The Big Easy is getting a big boost from loyal football fans and travelers who are simply looking for a place to party.
As I mentioned in my previous blog dozens of my pals from Hawaii boarded 16-hour flights from Honolulu to New Orleans to watch our beloved Bows get bowled over by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday. Now, it’s time for Ohio State fans to make the trip to the Crescent City to watch the Buckeyes take on LSU in the coveted Bowl Championship Series title game on Monday night.
No doubt about it… it’s prime tourism season in the Big Easy. Hotel rooms and area restaurants are booked solid for Monday’s college football national title game and next month’s NBA All-Star game… and don’t expect a reprieve for Mardi Gras or the city’s Jazz & Heritage Festival.
The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau predicts visitation to approach the 8 million mark this year. That’s up from an estimated 6.8 million in 2007. But still not as high as it was in 2004, the year before Katrina hit, back then visitors to the area surpassed the 10 million mark.
Still, the new numbers are nothing to sneeze at. City officials say visitors coming to New Orleans to witness the BCS showdown between Ohio State and LSU are expected to bring in $200 million to $250 million in tourism business. Every single one of the 72,000 seats in the Louisiana Superdome have been sold, and hotels in the city were filled within 24 hours of the teams being announced, according to the president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association (GNOHLA).
Hoteliers are making the most of the situation by raising their rates. This weekend even mid-level hotels are running $300-plus per night, the highest rates GNOHLA officials have seen for any event. And a warning for all you travelers hoping to catch a break by driving to the Big Easy to take in next month’s Mardi Gras and NBA All-Star game festivities–GNOHLA execs say the price of an average hotel room in the city is not expected to decrease much from its current level at least until after spring break.