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Events picking up in New Orleans as city recovers from Katrina

Events picking up in New Orleans as city recovers from Katrina

The second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, if it lives up to the first, will complete a solid month of well-attended sporting and cultural events for a city depending heavily upon tourism to recover from Hurricane Katrina, tourism officials say.
Although Jazz Fest has not released attendance figures, the music festival, along a major business meeting, filled about 92 percent of the available hotel rooms in New Orleans, with several hotels selling out, said Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Combined with the recent French Quarter Festival and the Zurich Classic golf tournament the two weekends before Jazz Fest, the city is on something of a roll, Romig said.
"This potentially has the effect of four strong weekends in a row," Romig said Wednesday.
The French Quarter Festival, a three-day music festival held April 13-15 with a primarily local audience, drew an estimated 425,000 spectators, including a record 208,000 on Sunday, Romig said.
The following week, Zurich Classic officials estimated a final-day crowd of 40,000 for the PGA stop _ up from the typical pre-Katrina figure of 35,000 _ despite a shortage of big-name golfers as the event returned to the Tournament Players Club just outside of New Orleans for the first time since the storm.
Tom Weatherly, a spokesman for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, said he had heard no complaints from his member establishments about Jazz Fest.
"The restaurants we've talked to were really happy with the crowds that were coming in," Weatherly said.
About 1,800 restaurants _ down from the pre-Katrina figure of 3,414 _ are open in the New Orleans metropolitan region, Weatherly said. But most of the name restaurants that tourists flock to are up and running, he said.
Last weekend's hotel occupancy figures also were boosted by the Risk Insurance Managers Society meeting in New Orleans, which brought about 10,000 people to the city, Romig said.
In February, the Mardi Gras celebration showed signs of recovering from Katrina, which led to a vastly scaled-down event in 2006. City officials said there were about 800,000 people in town for the 2007 event, more people than last year but still short of about the 1 million people who celebrated annually in the few years before Katrina.
In 2004, the last full year before Katrina, the city hosted 10.1 million visitors, who spent $4.9 billion (euro3.6 billion), according to the tourism bureau. In 2005 before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, the city was en route to a potential record year. With the last four months wiped out, New Orleans recorded 6.6 million visitors who spent $4.1 billion (euro3.02 billion), according to agency figures.
No estimates have yet been released for 2006.
Despite recent optimism, the aftermath of Katrina continues to create problems for the convention-tourist business.
National Business Aviation Association, expected to bring more than 20,000 people to New Orleans in October 2008, recently said it had moved its meeting to Orlando, Florida, next year because Lakefront Airport would not be able to hold its aircraft display. The airport was heavily damaged during Katrina. The group had been forced to move its 2005 meeting out of New Orleans because of the storm.
March was the first for which convention business exceeded pre-Hurricane Katrina numbers _ but it was a blip not expected to last, said Kelly Schulz, a spokeswoman for the visitors bureau. The NCAA regional basketball tournament and two big medical conventions swelled the number of attendees to 85,000, compared to 75,000 for March 2005, she said.
Overall, she said, convention business is about 70 percent of what had been expected to be a record year before the storm hit in August 2005.
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AP reporter Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-08 05:46 GMT+08:00