Protectors of the Crown Jewel
Despite a cut in funding, the French Quarter Management District launches a new campaign and continues to work to protect the businesses, residents and culture of New Orleans’ biggest tourism draw.
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.
Often in communities the smallest organizations are the most adaptive and impactful. One such organization is the French Quarter Management District (FQMD), created in 2007 as a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana to support residents and businesses in the French Quarter.
There is no denying the draw of the French Quarter and its role in tourism for our region. According to a D.K. Shifflet & Associates (DKSA) report, in 2019, New Orleans welcomed 19.75 million visitors, a 6.7% increase in visitors compared to 2018. Visitors to New Orleans in 2019 spent $10.05 billion, a 10.3% increase over the previous year. More than 95% of those tourists spent time in the French Quarter during their visit.
“As the most-visited destination in the city, the French Quarter is the proud ‘crown jewel’ of the city’s tourism industry,” said Karley D. Frankic, executive director of FQMD. “Maintaining a safe, clean, high-quality French Quarter experience for all visitors, business owners and residents is of paramount importance to the economic sustainability and cultural vibrancy of the city.”
FQMD serves the French Quarter through a variety of initiatives, one of its most visible is the Supplemental Police Patrol Program, or French Quarter Task Force. According to the FQMD 2019 Annual Report, the task force provided 18,000 additional hours of patrols over 84 shifts per week patrolling the French Quarter 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It made 5,110 business checks and 13,044 citizen contacts.
Because the force has arresting and summons writing capabilities, Frankic said it has been credited by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) as having a positive impact on violent crime, including the removal of criminals, guns and drugs from the French Quarter.
To further increase safety and security in the French Quarter, FQMD engaged an investigation and corporate intelligence firm to conduct the French Quarter Security Assessment to review the current security and safety infrastructure in the New Orleans Police Department’s 8th District, as well as the need, cost and effectiveness of the French Quarter’s multiple security efforts and resources.
FQMD works to enhance commercial and residential life in the French Quarter in other ways as well. It recently partnered with seven museums to become the fiscal agent for a new cultural coalition, the French Quarter Museum Association, with the aim of making museum-going an integral part of the French Quarter experience.
“By working together to develop shared programming and coordinated marketing, the nonprofit museums of the French Quarter can engage a larger percentage of the people who are already in the French Quarter — residents and visitors alike — and thereby grow their audience and increase their visitorship,” said Frankic. “This, in turn, has a positive impact on the French Quarter environment, improving its sustainability as a historic resource.”
Like all entities tied to tourism, FQMD is reassessing its role and budget due to the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. The group has increased its communication with city leadership to assure that accurate information about impacts to security, sanitation and infrastructure are conveyed to the residential and businesses groups of the French Quarter.
It is also working on a new campaign to “Keep the Quarter Clean” to build upon the work that has been done during the COVID-19 shutdown. Many French Quarter property owners used the mandatory closure to repaint building facades, deep-clean their buildings and generally improve their properties.
FQMD receives significant funding from longtime partner New Orleans & Company. Because the hotel self-assessment revenues have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19, New Orleans & Company had to reduce its financial support to FQMD for 2020. FQMD has reevaluated its police deployment to assure that supplemental security remains present despite a decrease in available funding.
“The financial impacts to our city and state’s coffers is a direct result of decreased hospitality spending,” said Frankic. “Now more than ever, it is essential that the French Quarter be well managed. The French Quarter’s financial value goes well beyond our boundaries. Value-added industries such as produce, seafood and beverage vendors, airlines, tour companies, regional festivals and culture bearers all benefit from the French Quarter. FQMD is working tirelessly to assure that everyone who lives, works and visits the French Quarter has a great time, is successful and gets home safely.”