NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans hosted 4.9 million visitors in the first half of 2012, a 2 percent increase over the same period in 2011, with spending increasing 11 percent to $3.45 billion, according to a University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center survey and report.
“The UNO visitor study provides strong evidence of the continued upward trend of the New Orleans tourism industry,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release. “This growth is excellent news, demonstrating the resiliency of the industry and the importance the cultural economy plays in the overall economic health of our city and region.”
He said the numbers will continue to grow as the city hosts an “unprecedented series of national and international events, including Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.”
The city will also host the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four and the 2014 NBA Men’s Allstar Game.
Of the 4.9 million visitors through midyear, 74.1 percent were visiting New Orleans for vacation/pleasure; 14.3 percent attended conventions, associations, corporate meetings and/or trade shows; and 11.7 percent were in New Orleans for general business, the report said.
Of all visitors, 50 percent stayed in a hotel, while 26.6 percent were visiting friends and relatives. The average number of nights stayed by visitors was 4.1 nights.
On the spending front, per-trip expenditures among visitors were up in all categories except for shopping. The largest jump in per-trip expenditures was in bars and nightclubs, with a 27.2 percent increase from the same period in 2011, and in lodging, with an 18.1 percent increase from 2011.
More than half of business visitors to the New Orleans area — 60 percent — extended their stay for pleasure for an average 2.1 days, the report said.
Tourism is one of New Orleans’ largest employers. According to UNO’s research for the full year 2011, New Orleans welcomed 8.75 million visitors, and visitor spending hit $5.47 billion, a significant increase over 2010 and the highest spending in the city’s history.
“The broad scope and elevated quality of activities in New Orleans is having a dramatic impact on repeat visitation,” John Williams, co-director of the UNO center, noted.
Repeat visitors, comprising 55.8 percent of all visitors, are dedicating time for several activities during their visits, the report said.
Research results show that they are frequenting the World War II Museum, Audubon Zoo, Insectarium, Aquarium, New Orleans Museum of Art, parades, fine dining and casual dining more on repeat visits than on their initial visit “as they seek to take part in the richness of the culture of New Orleans,” Williams said.
The survey also showed that while Louisiana was the top feeder market, 12.6 percent, for New Orleans, the next most popular states visitors came from are Texas, 9.5 percent; Alabama, 5.6 percent; California, 5.5 percent; and Florida, 5.3 percent.
At 2012’s half-year mark, 91.4 percent of respondents said that they were very likely or likely to recommend New Orleans as a destination to their friends and family. Almost half, 44.2 percent, of the respondents reported that this was their first visit to New Orleans.
The report was commissioned by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
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