BACK AT IT

Half of this month’s respondents said they anticipate a rise in revenue with the return of festival season.

The latest New Orleans 500 survey shows that the imminent return of New Orleans’ “festival season” is cause for celebration among the city’s hospitality executives — and also welcome news for many CEOs in others sectors of the economy. Half of the leaders who responded to the survey said these gatherings increased their company’s bottom line.

It goes without saying that operators of hotels, tour companies, restaurants and other visitor-dependent businesses are optimistic about the return of Jazz Fest, Essence Fest, French Quarter Fest, the NCAA Men’s Final Four and other events that attract paying customers. For many executives, in fact, the tourist influx can’t come soon enough, especially after the city has endured two years with far fewer visitors than normal.

“Our businesses — the Steamboat Natchez, Riverboat City of New Orleans, Gray Line Tours and Café Beignet Restaurants — all thrive on tourism,” said Gordon Stevens, president of New Orleans Steamboat Company. “We are part of the hospitality industry, which has suffered more due to COVID than any other segment of our economy. The return of festivals and events is a godsend.”

Michael Sawaya, Morial Convention Center president, agrees. For him, New Orleans festivals and events are the ultimate sales tool.

“Our reputation as a dynamic destination is critical to our ability to attract conventions and conferences to New Orleans,” he said. “The festivals showcase the best of what our city has to offer and visitors contribute enormously to our local and regional economy.”

The positive effects of festivals and events extend beyond the hospitality industry, however. As Mimi Dossett, president of the Money Hill golf community in Abita Springs, said: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

“The hospitality market is a contributing part of our overall construction portfolio,” said Benjamin Gootee, owner of Gootee Construction. “With the return of festivals and events is the return of cash flow for the whole hospitality market. The fortunate owners with cash reserves were able to take advantage of the slow period to catch up on much-needed capital projects, but now they need to start seeing a ROI on the work completed. The less fortunate, who were still able to hang on, are desperately needing this revenue to keep operations going and to start on the long due capital projects that have been neglected.”

“We are more than excited to ramp up our hospitality division, which began in 1998,” she said. “Event staffing is a great business for our company. It provides a continuous applicant flow that allows us to vet for other industries. The return of festival season represents more than a 30% increase in our bottom line. … Whether you are a vendor or a supplier, nothing compares to the energy festival season brings back to our city.”

Economic development execs, like World Trade Center New Orleans CEO J. Edwin Webb, said big events create more opportunities for face-to-face meetings with potential investors. Buisson Creative founder Greg Buisson said they help his local clients grow their brands and gain visibility. And public relations pro Betsie Gambel said this year’s events have special significance because they mark a new beginning.

“People are ready to move forward from the pandemic,” she said, “and companies should benefit from that optimism and sense of confidence in getting back to normal.”

Tulane business professor Peter Ricchiuti might have summed it best when he said that the return of festivals bring a “feeling that we can sell New Orleans again. … For a town built on fun, we looked too much like every other city for the past two years.”

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New Orleans festivals and events are scheduled to return in a big way this spring. How do these events, and the visitors they bring, affect your organization’s revenue? (Chart shows result split among the approximately 50% of respondents that anticipated seeing a change).

 


 

News from the top
Each month, we ask the top business professionals featured in the New Orleans 500 to weigh in on issues impacting the New Orleans business community. Have an idea for a survey question for the New Orleans 500? Email rich@bizneworleans.com.