Tourism officials expecting big crowds this Carnival season

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Tourism officials are expecting big crowds this Carnival season despite having an early Mardi Gras this year.

"It's looking great. All last year we were promoting the Tricentennial year so all the pitching and the outreach that we did last year is really paying off now because were being listed as one of the top 10 places to visit," said Kristian Sonnier with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Sonnier says Mardi Gras typically brings a more than 90% hotel occupancy in the city as well as hundreds of millions of tourism dollars. He expects this year to be another good one thanks to the Tricentennial celebration.

"We usually host more than a million people during Carnival season, and it's about an $840 million shot in the arm for the economy, and you know I don't want to make the forecast five weeks out, but all indicators are showing that we are going to have a really strong Mardi Gras," said Sonnier.

FOX 8 Carnival Authority Arthur Hardy says we're once again experiencing a healthy Carnival season with numbers way beyond Pre-Katrina standards. He adds while an early season usually means hotel occupancy is not as high because it doesn't coincide with spring break, he says this year we're off to a great start.

"I saw record crowds for 12th Night. I was all over the place, and yeah, it's become a real big deal in its own right. The weather was cool but not cold, and no rain. If we could have that for Carnival, the whole season, I would be very happy," said Hardy.

Hardy says the last time Fat Tuesday fell on Feb. 13 it was World War II and there was no Mardi Gras. But in 1935, there was also a Feb. 13 Mardi Gras. That day the temperature got up to 67 degrees and there was no rain. He says we can all hope for that this year too.

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