Morial Convention Center dips deeply into reserve fund

Morial Convention Center dips deeply into reserve fund

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The people who run the Morial Convention Center say they have no meetings booked for the remainder of this year and they say Phase 3.2 offers little immediate help.

They are now digging deeply into a reserve fund to keep 400 people employed.

To say that the coronavirus has hurt the convention industry would be putting it mildly.

“Nothing, no events booked for 2020 other than to continue operating the monitoring station,” said Morial Convention Center president Michael Sawaya.

Normally the convention center hosts 130 major meetings each year but they have all canceled and the recently announced Phase 3.2 offers little immediate relief.

“For our business model we host thousands rather than hundreds, 3.2 doesn’t really allow us to do that but it is a move in the right direction,” said Sawaya.

The convention center continues to employ about four hundred people involved in ongoing maintenance and renovation work, even though hotel tax revenues are way down.

“Our occupancy normally runs 75 percent year to date we are now running at 36 percent,” said convention center finance V.P. Alita Caparotta.

The tourist bureau now called New Orleans and Company is starting a new campaign to try and capture potential tourists who don’t necessarily want to fly.

“We are doing a full marketing campaign with the team of road trip trying to get folks from surrounding markets to do a drive-in trip to New Orleans for the hotels restaurants and attractions,” said Kelly Schulz, with New Orleans and Company. She believes there’s pent up demand to be tapped into.

With cancellation of all meetings in 2020 the only thing being housed in the convention center is the coronavirus hospital but that too is coming to a close.

“They are not admitting any new patients and their plan is to ramp down,” said Sawaya.

The convention center is now dipping into its reserve funds to pay its bills, as it waits for conditions to change.

“A lot of meeting planners are waiting to see what the healthcare issue is and if there’s a vaccine and how that will affect the tenants,” said Sawaya.

Meantime Convention Center officials have 65 events on the books for 2020 and they say they’re slowly beginning to sign new meeting contracts, for the coming year.

Even though the state run coronavirus hospital will no longer accept patients, convention center officials say some facilities will remain in place in case there is a second wave of coronavirus.

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