N.O. & Company Sees ‘Glimmer of Hope’ in Fight for Relief Funds
NEW ORLEANS – Stephen Perry of New Orleans & Company, the destination marketing organization that sells the city to business and leisure travelers, said there is a “small glimmer of hope” that lawmakers in Baton Rouge may direct some funds to N.O. & Company and other DMOs around the state to bolster their marketing efforts.
To date, DMOs haven’t received any federal CARES Act funds. N.O. & Company hasn’t received any help from the state or the city either. Perry, of course, believes that’s a major oversight considering the organization he leads is responsible for an industry that’s worth more than $10 billion annually.
During a virtual press conference on Thursday, Perry gave an update on what’s happening this week at the Capitol.
“In a supplemental bill yesterday, there was an award of $5 million for tourism marketing to the Louisiana Office of Tourism which we believe would be distributed around the state,” he said. “That went back to the house in conference and then was returned to the calendar so there’s still a lot of discussion left about where the money would come from and what the level should be.”
The reality, said Perry, is that although any financial boost is welcome, N.O. & Company needs “at least” $25 million to do its part in kick-starting the city’s visitor economy.
“That’s based on what we went through in 2005 with Katrina and what we secured afterward,” he said. “[Right now], we’ve had very little income. We’re operating basically without travel, without going to see our customers, we’re doing very little marketing. That amount to us is a minimum to support the second largest industry in the state and us as the largest economic development corporation in Louisiana.”
Perry said that “virtually every component of American industry” that was affected by the pandemic has been helped by the first $2 trillion in federal aid.
“But destination marketing organizations – which drive hundreds and hundreds of billions of the more than trillion-dollar American travel industry – were completely left out,” he said. “That means we have to have more governmental help. In the best of worlds, we’d rather not have it because we like to generate our own dollars by bringing in people and creating revenue that way. But there are eleven states that have stepped up and put millions of dollars into their major DMOs and that has not occurred here yet.”
Perry said he doesn’t think the city will be able to help because the loss of tourism revenue, among other factors, has created a budget crisis. But he thinks there’s money to be had at the state level and a “tremendous amount of money” available federally. He’s frustrated that partisanship is slowing down the process because the window for survivability of small businesses is rapidly closing.
“This is a bipartisan issue,” he said. “We’re working hard on it with all of our fellow organizations around the state. We’ve been working closely with the lieutenant governor and with the leadership in the House and Senate. We’re starting to get a little bit of traction but we don’t have the outcome or the results yet. It’s something for all of us to be monitoring because, frankly, the future of New Orleans depends on these dollars coming for our businesses, for worker relief and our ability to market in the future.”