Visitors revel in N.O.

“It’s going to be very, very hard to get hotel rooms.” Kelly schulz,  New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman, talking about Super Bowl and Carnival season

While the number of empty seats in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome were numerous for the Jan. 2 AllState Sugar Bowl, tourism officials on Friday said they were pleased with number of occupied hotel rooms in the city during the game and New Year’s Eve.

A growing number of people in town for end-of-the-year festivities likely buoyed the hotel numbers, said Mark Romig, president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.

Preliminary occupancy numbers for 2013, based on an informal survey of New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau member hotels, show that 80 percent of rooms were full Dec. 30, while 93 percent of rooms were taken on New Year’s Eve.

Those rates dropped to 72 percent on New Year’s Day and Jan. 2, the day the Florida Gators and Louisville Cardinals faced off in the Sugar Bowl.

The same survey done last year found that 87 percent of hotels rooms were occupied on Dec. 30. Ninety-nine percent were full for New Year’s Eve, thanks to the marquee showdown between LSU and the University of Alabama in the AllState BCS National Championship Game.

Occupancy dipped to 72 percent on New Year’s Day 2012 and dropped again Jan. 2, to 59 percent. It rebounded to 62 percent on Jan. 3, the day of the Sugar Bowl that pitted the University of Michigan against Virginia Tech.

Officials are still tallying the economic impact the game had on the city, but previous years have infused between $130 million and $150 million into the local economy, according to Romig.

Noting that the preliminary hotel occupancy rates this year were comparable to last year, and higher in some cases, Romig said he was pleased with the numbers. “It’s very healthy for the city,” he said.

With the Sugar Bowl done, the next results officials look forward to obtaining will be those for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 and Carnival season, which will bookend the big game.

Kelly Schulz, a spokeswoman for the NOCVB, said the game and parades are already making rooms in town hard to find, adding that some people who call the agency asking about accommodations are being told to try Baton Rouge.

“That’s lots of activity,” she said. “It’s going to be very, very hard to get hotel rooms.”

Romig said he expects only positive results following those events since, according to the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, the economic impact of Super Bowl for the host city is estimated at more than $300 million, a figure that doesn’t account for the Carnival lagniappe.

“My sense would be that we’re gearing up for a spectacular first quarter,” he said.