These were just some of the areas of interest with Stephen Sabludowsky, publisher of Bayoubuzz hosted a Google Hangout webcast on Wednesday with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, President and CEO, Mark Romig.
Below is a transcript and video of excerpts of Part I of the interview with Romig.
Sabludowsky: And, so tell us about New Orleans tourism. We're in the summer months, so what can we expect?
Romig: Yes, Stephen, that's the good question, because the summer months are primarily the months that we like to focus our marketing because, historically, it has provided the opportunity for visitors to get really good hotel deals. The restaurants have capacity. The attractions are available. And so we are marketing New Orleans as a great destination for the summer, both families as well as individuals. And we're seeing a very robust start for the month of June. You know, we just finished a wonderful French Market Creole Tomato Festival. The weekend prior to that, of course, we had the Oyster Festival. This coming weekend is the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival, located over in Armstrong Park. And so we're seeing a steady mix of really terrific events that showcase the authenticity and the culture of New Orleans, which is driving a lot of what we call the the drive market into the city. People will come in on late Friday or Saturday morning and stay the weekend. That's been very healthy for visitor spending. Because at the end of the day, what we are about is promoting New Orleans to pull visitors here as opposed to them choosing another destination. And when they're here, spending their money, which adds to the general economy, but also helps us sustain and then also improve the job picture. At the end of the day, you know, we're about sustaining and creating more jobs and more economic opportunity for our citizens that live here. So it's been a good start for us, it will soon be July, and we kick off July with the 20th anniversary of the Essence Festival, a huge event for our city. Already signs are that the hotels for that weekend of July 4 are at 99% occupied. It's a great sign.
Sabludowsky: Yeah, and that's a great festival. Speaking of festivals, yesterday, we did an interview regarding Festigals. Now, that's an incredible event, and I know this is the fourth year.
Romig: Diane Lyons and Sandra Dardis have really made something out of what was just an idea of having an event for women, targeting women not only from the New Orleans area, but from around the region. Now, nationally, they're flying in for this. It's a fun event; it's educational. It has a cause around it, and it's done well. That will occur the weekend after the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival. So you start seeing these events falling into place, and now our concentration is to how can we pull business in so we can get some hospitality activity from, let's say, Sunday night through Wednesday or Thursday, so that the first part of the week - it's one week - we really are trying to focus some activity. But right now, we have the Jehovah's Witnesses in town. 40,000 delegates are in town, which is great for our city.
Sabludowsky: My gosh, that really is a lot of people! What's the, is that the biggest, say, convention that we're going to have this year?
Romig: That would be one of the larger city-wides that we'll have this summer, for sure. You know, we had a great spring. We had a number of large groups come through. The Convention Visitors Bureau has a full-time staff of people going out around the country and around the world, actually, talking to meeting planners and association executives about bringing their convention or meeting here to help us fill the Morial Convention Center and the other meeting spaces that we have. And we'd like to get into a regular rotation of these large groups because they'll choose us one year, and then they may go to Chicago or Las Vegas. We want to get back into a rotation so that we become a regular site for them. And because our city is so friendly to visitors, and it's a walkable city, even in the summer, we all love our summer months and our heat and humidity, as we call it. But you know, it's a great time to be here, and if we can pull a group like that on a regular basis, the better off we will be. Well, you know, we're always about improving the number of assets [inaudible part] that will attract not only our citizens to enjoy, but also business from around the region and help promote them through our [inaudible] assets. We have a wonderful, robust website, neworleansonline.com; a fantastic new website that's part of neworleansonline.com called followyournola.com, and we have a series of e-mail newsletters and our GoNola video blog. We like to tell the story of these events, and we're working with a group right now on a new festival that would appear and premiere next March around Entrepreneur Week. I can't release information yet because it's still in a formative stage, but we're providing them some consult and what's a good time of the year to do a festival, because you certainly don't want to compete against another existing festival. You can avoid that, or if you want to be in an area of the city that can handle the infrastructure of your festival. Mid-City, Central City, those areas, you know, are really longing for some development of festivals.