LT. GOVERNOR LANDRIEU CONDUCTS TOURISM ROUNDTABLE -- 01/27/2009
Office of Lieutenant GovernorFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
LT. GOVERNOR LANDRIEU CONDUCTS TOURISM ROUNDTABLE
New Orleans industry leaders address upcoming challenges
New Orleans, La. - Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu brought together New Orleans tourism leaders to discuss challenges facing the industry during the current economic downturn. Representatives from the restaurant, hotel, convention and sports and other industries gathered at Hotel Monteleone Monday in hopes to create initiatives for drawing business and leisure travelers to Louisiana.
Lt. Governor Landrieu and Secretary Pam Breaux of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism met for two hours with New Orleans tourism leaders, who listened to presentations by industry experts and followed with a roundtable discussion on how to position New Orleans for 2010 and beyond. Lt. Governor Landrieu urged that they all come together to a truthful open discussion about how to prepare New Orleans for an economic downturn, considering the fact that the state faces a $2 billion deficit.
"Making a master plan for the industry isn't new - it was done in the '70s - but we need to get started on it again to get ahead of the game," said Lt. Governor Landrieu. "We had a banner year in 2008 and expect a strong year in 2009, but we need to start planning today for what is likely to occur down the road in 2010 and 2011."
Tourism has been one of the main drivers of the state's economic growth, creating approximately 144,000 jobs around Louisiana. Lt. Governor Landrieu acknowledged the tourism industry leaders for their efforts that played an important role behind New Orleans's recovery in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He highlighted the growing trend of "voluntourism" in Louisiana, in which visitors dedicated part of their travel or vacation time to volunteer service.
In 2007 and 2008, over 500 volunteer projects including renovations of 600 houses and construction or refurbishment of 50 playgrounds were completed in Louisiana by more than 100 out-of-state organizations such as Allstate, Starbucks, the National Basketball Association, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Tavis Smiley Productions, and Tourism Cares.
"Over the past few years, more than one million volunteers have come to the area to help rebuild homes and infrastructure, " said Landrieu. " They stayed for days and weeks. Their 'voluntourism' has had a major economic impact."
Janet Speyrer, associate dean for research at the College of Business Administration of the University of New Orleans, issued a report at the roundtable estimating New Orleans to receive roughly 8.3 million visitors this year, down from 10.1 million in 2004, however expecting those visitors to spend slightly more than they did in 2004.
"I have paid close attention to the positive trends in addition to voluntourism, including the fact that population and jobs continue to increase locally, factors that can positively impact business travel," said Speyrer. " There has been a gradual recovery of the New Orleans 'brand' in the minds of both leisure and business travelers as the physical recovery of the region continues."
New Orleans continues to stand tall, given the national economic crisis we are facing. The city has been illustrated as a visitor's destination for affordable spending. According to Speyrer, the local economy is not dependent on the financial and automotive industries; the local economy is dependant on tourism for the state, which has maintained fairly active and therefore attractive to visitors.
"The equation is simple - better marketing, "said Lt. Governor Landrieu. "There is no industry that generates a better return on investment than the tourism industry does. If you want to grow the economy, this is one area where spending more makes sense."
Lt. Governor Landrieu will continue to work with industry leaders meeting quarterly to push the Legislature for tourism marketing money to help Louisiana's economic growth.