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Thousands head to French Quarter before New Year's Eve

50,000 to 100,000 people are expected to pack the French Quarter this weekend ahead of New Year's Eve. It'll bring big business to local hotels, but the numbers won't be as strong for the Sugar Bowl.

This is the Murphy family's first trip to New Orleans.  Dad Sean Murphy commented, "I heard that New Orleans was a fantastic place for New Year's."

At the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, the Murphys are just one of many families arriving for a long weekend.  Daughter Ellie said, "I'd love to walk around the French Quarter. I mean, I'm really excited. That's the part I'm looking forward to most."

60 new guests checked into the Bourbon Orleans Friday, and even more are coming this weekend.  In all, the hotel expects to be 90 percent occupied by New Year's Eve.

That's the case at most hotels in the city.  The bad news is that the Sugar Bowl, which happens on January 2, isn't sold out, meaning occupancy at area hotels will drop.

Mark Romig with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation explains, "We drop a little bit for Tuesday and Wednesday, so that means there are some rooms available for the game."

It's quite a different situation from last year, when Alabama and LSU fans flooded the Quarter about a week after New Year's Day for the BCS championship game.  But even if there aren't that many football fans in town next week, the general manager of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel says he's not too worried.

"This has been a record breaking year," Mark Wilson said.

There were lots of first-time visitors to the city. "We're really offering something unique here and I think Americans are really fascinated by New Orleans," Wilson explained.

Tourism officials hope that fascination keeps people coming back year after year.  After all, our local economy depends on it.

"75,000 people rely on the tourism industry for their daily employment... very important. We know it's important to spread tourism around the city so that all areas of the city can have the benefit of people spending their money, shopping," Romig said.

And with up to 100,000 people coming this weekend, lots of money will be spent.  Romig thinks it's a good sign and a good kick-off to a hopefully successful 2013.

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