The Convention and Visitors Bureau wants a million international tourists in New Orleans for its tri-centennial in 2018. Travel buyers from across the globe are in town this week hearing what the South has to offer. Tourism industry leaders think there is a great opportunity to convince people in other countries to make New Orleans their vacation destination.
"We have people from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Australia," said Louise Healy. She and a group of friends are using New Orleans for their reunion. The sights and sounds of a band on Royal Street has them falling in love with the city.
"We love it so much. The culture and so many things to do! We've been roaming the streets soaking up atmosphere. It's been amazing," Healy said.
They're the kind of visitors that convention leaders are hungry for.
"We have the ability over the next next three or four years to grow this market exponentially. Just this year alone 18 percent growth," said Steve Perry, with the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Travel South International is a three-day convention of travel buyers wheeling and dealing for the best locations in the South to send their clients. Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says they are tour operators from around the world.
"More than 100 tour operators, including the ones that go back home and plan trips to America," Dardenne said.
They get crash courses in cities from Alabama to the Carolinas and points in between.
"We have about 10 minutes to sell New Orleans. I have 55 appointments in two days," said Tiko Soto of the CVB as he prepared his sell of the city to a travel buyer from the UK.
Once the high powered interviews end, those travel wholesalers package the best hotels, restaurants and tours, pitch them to travel agencies, and those agencies turn them into irresistible deals for the international set.
"It's no longer a hard sell. It was unfortunately a few years ago after Katrina that is way behind us," said Marina Dupuy-Wedd from France. "The city is so much nicer now."
"It's one thing when we're making sales calls in Europe but nothing better than having them here," said Perry.