NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Tourism leaders celebrated hospitality workers Tuesday, thanking them for making New Orleans a top destination.
Parading through the French Quarter, hotel and restaurant workers marched shoulder-to-shoulder with city leaders to celebrate national travel and tourism week.
"So its really a chance for us to honor the people that make up the hospitality industry," Kristian Sonnier said.
The 68,000 New Orleanians who work in the industry and 116,000 others from the Greater New Orleans area contributed to a phenomenal year in 2016, when 10.4 million people visited
"Over the past couple of years we're happy to say that the first time visitor and the second time visitor are returning to the French Quarter," said Brittany McGovern.
Barry Prater and Deborah Funderwhite are in town for a waste management conference. It's their first time to the Crescent City.
"It's just been such a fulfillment of what the expectation was and just great, just great so far," said Prater.
Last year, visitors spent $7.4 billion in New Orleans. At this point, it may be too soon to say if the ongoing controversy surrounding the removal of Confederate-era monuments will affect the number of people choosing to come to New Orleans this year.
"We have all sorts of opinions on the matter," said Mark Romig. "Our focus is just ensuring people know that the city is welcoming and here for them."
Several other events are planned throughout the week to recognize hospitality industry employees.