No More Summer Slump
Local hotels beat the heat by drawing visitors with a wide range of creative promotions.
“New Orleans hotels are no longer singing the summertime blues. Thanks to stepped-up room-rate promotions, coupled with a full slate of festivals and activities, the city’s hotels and restaurants are now almost as popular in hot summer weather as they are in spring and fall. The clientele isn’t limited to tourists, either; summer is a time for lots of locals to be tourists in their own hometown.
“Summers are gradually picking up, and our leisure business is a high point,” says Kent Wasmuth, director of sales and marketing at the Hotel Monteleone. “It’s not the doldrums it used to be 20 years ago. We sell out just about every weekend.”
Keeping hotels and their restaurants rolling all year long is important to the city’s economy. According to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, more than 9.5 million visitors came to the Big Easy in 2014, spending a whopping $6.81 billion.
This success doesn’t happen by accident, Wasmuth points out. “We do a fair amount of regional advertising from May through September.” The ads target Houston, Birmingham, Nashville and other cities within driving range of New Orleans.
In addition to traditional ads, the Monteleone keeps active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites. Last summer, a sweepstakes offer brought in more than 6,500 entries and earned the hotel almost 9,000 Facebook followers.
The Monteleone participates in a variety of citywide summer promotions, Wasmuth says, including New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and Tales of the Cocktail. It also benefits from big-draw festivals, such as Essence Festival in July.
Once they attract visitors, hotels can’t let up on their efforts. “You have to take care of them,” Wasmuth says. The Monteleone encourages restaurant traffic by taking part in special promotions like the NOMCVB’s “COOLinary” prix-fixe meals.
Location also gives a boost to business at The Hotel Modern, on St. Charles Avenue near Lee Circle. The hotel, which recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, is close to many museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and the Warehouse District. “Visitors may only know the French Quarter or Lower Garden District,” says General Manager Miguel Solorzano. The hotel offers packages with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Arts Center, for example, and its “Park and Play” package offers free valet parking.
“As part of our marketing campaign for the summer, and to keep busy, we program opportunities at the restaurant,” Solorzano says. The hotel’s restaurant is Tivoli & Lee; the circle where Gen. Lee’s statue now stands was once home to a carousel and was called Tivoli Circle.
Tivoli & Lee’s Sunday brunches have been written up in many publications, Solorzano says. On Thursdays throughout the summer, the chef creates special dinners highlighting different distilleries; diners get a four-course dinner with whiskey pairings for $65 a person. “It’s a chance to mingle and meet other people and learn a lot more about whiskey,” he says. Other promotions include a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar at brunch. “People are going crazy for it,” Solorzano says. Wednesdays have all-day happy hours with half-price bottles of wine.
The hotel’s bar, Bellocq, is also a big drawing card, Solorzano says. Inspired by the Storyville red light district in the early 1900s, the bar prides itself on expertly made cocktails including “cobblers” – a drink made with crushed ice, fruit and juices, and either an aperitif wine or digestif liqueurs.
Tourism operations like the New Orleans CVB, along with many nonprofits, do a bang-up job of filling summertime with fun things to do, says Ramon Reyes, general manager at the Omni Riverfront. “Summers used to be dismal,” he says. Now, the Satchmo Summerfest, White and Dirty Linen nights and the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience act as magnets to both tourists and locals. “I don’t think we could survive without the locals,” Reyes says.
He also credits the Omni Riverfront’s location for helping the hotel fill up on a regular basis. The hotel is just a quick walk away from many museums, including the Ogden (Roger Ogden is an Omni Riverfront investor) and near the cruise ports. And, of course, Harrah’s Casino and the convention center are also right nearby.
The Omni’s brand loyalty program, Select Guests, is an effective way to attract families looking for value, Reyes says. The program is free, and includes free morning beverages, complimentary upgrades and free wi-fi. The hotel now has a three-meal restaurant and the Fulton St. Bar.
Once mainly a mecca for adults heading to Bourbon Street, New Orleans now has a growing roster of destinations attractive to youngsters, such as the Louisiana Children’s Museum and the Audubon Insectarium, Reyes notes. His hotel seeks to lure family traffic by offering attractive room packages, which use lower rates to sell out the hotel’s 202 rooms. The nearby Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is also proving to be a hot spot for those looking for good deals on upscale purchases.
Hotels have to use their imagination to come up with unique packages to fill their rooms. Loew’s New Orleans Hotel, for example, has a “Girlfriends Getaway” that General Manager Loris Menfi says has been very popular. The package includes a large room with two queen-size beds, drinks at the Swizzle Stick bar, martini setups in the room and a “recovery kit” for the morning after.
Other specials include “Park and Play,” with free valet parking and drinks at the Swizzle Stick bar; “Sprout Dream Stay Package,” with free meals and other goodies for children; and “Third Night’s a Charm,” with a 20 percent discount for stays of three nights. The offers, coupled with local fests and concerts, mean summer business at Loew’s is healthy, says Diane Riche, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.
Loew’s, located on Poydras Street, has been recently renovated. The rooms and suites were completed in September, and Café Adelaide, the hotel’s restaurant, was spiffed up in October. “It’s a fresh new look, and our location is lovely,” she says. “There’s lots to do in our neighborhood.”
Summer winds up with Restaurant Week in September, during which Café Adelaide offers specials like “Wine and Dine for $39” and “Happier Hour.” And ladies (or men) who wear hats to so-called “Brunch with Hat-itude” receive martinis for 25 cents. The café is part of the Commander’s Palace family of restaurants; the lounge is named for the gold swizzle stick Adelaide Brennan wore.
Tourism is expected to continue posting record numbers, boosted in part by increases in the cruising industry. All in all, it’s clear that even as temperatures heat up, tourism in the Crescent City shows no signs of cooling down.
“We sell out just about every weekend,” says Kent Wasmuth, director of sales and marketing at the Hotel Monteleone. Wasmuth credits a variety of summer promotions with the hotel’s steady successs.
The Omni Riverfront’s convenient Downtown location — near the convention center, cruise ports and casino — helps the hotel keep capacity high.
“Summers used to be dismal…I don’t think we could survive without the locals.”
– Ramon Reyes, general manager of the Omni Riverfront
Loew's New Orleans Hotel on Poydras Street has recently undergone a renovation: Rooms and suites were completed last September and Cafe Adelaide last October. Summer promotions like the “Girlfriend’s Getaway,” along with multiple restaurant offers, help keep guests coming in.