Baton Rouge seeing Super Bowl impact

The Baton Rouge tourism industry is starting to feel the spillover effects of Sunday’s Super Bowl game in New Orleans.

Local hotel operators said they will have a higher than normal occupancy rate for the typical early February weekend. And flights out of Metro Airport on Monday morning have been sold out for more than a week, once it was known that the big football game would be a matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

“We don’t know what to expect because the two teams playing in this game are coming from markets we aren’t familiar with,” said Paul Arrigo, president and CEO of Visit Baton Rouge, the local convention and visitors bureau. Arrigo said while it was too soon to gauge the economic impact of the game, if the Super Bowl helps to fill up 10,000 local hotel rooms with two guests a night for the weekend, it would pump $8 million into the economy.

The CVB promoted Baton Rouge in the Baltimore and San Francisco markets, through advertising in traditional media and social media. The agency spent $40,000 on the Super Bowl marketing, which also includes helping to pay for tailgate parties this weekend in the North Boulevard Town Square. Money for the campaign is coming from the BP settlement, Arrigo said.

Jim Caldwell, a spokesman for Metro Airport, said private planes transporting people to the game started to arrive Wednesday. About 50 aircraft, from Gulfstream jets all the way up to 737s that have been outfitted for personal or corporate use, will be parked at the airport.

Because the vast majority of people who are going to the Super Bowl will want to leave Monday morning, Delta is “upgauging” Baton Rouge Metro and bringing in larger planes.

Instead of 50-seat regional jets transporting passengers to Delta hubs, there will be 65- and 76-seat planes, Caldwell said. Delta is also staging some 767 Airbuses at Baton Rouge Metro on Sunday night, so those planes can fly into Louis Armstrong International Airport into New Orleans as soon as gate space becomes available Monday morning.

“They’re expecting Monday to be the all-time biggest passenger day at Louis Armstrong International,” Caldwell said. “It could be our biggest day, too, if we get more capacity. We’ve been sold out of outbound flights since Tuesday of last week.”

While there had been some early speculation that the Super Bowl would lead Baton Rouge hotel rooms to sell out over the weekend, rooms are still available at most properties.

At the SpringHill Suites Baton Rouge North/Airport, General Manager Gary Jupiter said the 119-room hotel is 70 percent occupied for the weekend and bookings are still coming in.

“Typically, we would be at 40 percent occupancy for a weekend this time of the year,” he said.

Along with the Super Bowl, local hotels are being helped by the Mardi Gras parades that will roll over the weekend. That’s caused some downtown properties to sell out.

Jupiter, who is president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association, said the rate for a local hotel room is “probably $20 over a typical Saturday” because of the activities.

“It’s going to be a good weekend for us,” he said.

The occupancy rate at L’Auberge Baton Rouge is in the high-90 percents, said Kim Ginn, a spokeswoman for the casino resort. Ginn said it was difficult to compare this weekend to a typical weekend because L’Auberge opened in September and the casino can drive its own traffic through special events and promotions.

“But we’re very pleased with the occupancy rate,” she said.

L’Auberge has scheduled a range of activities to play off of the Super Bowl, including a drawing for a pair of tickets to the game Friday night, a viewing party in the Stadium sports bar and private events for casino VIPs, Ginn said. “We have seen the customer traffic and excitement pick up,” she said.