New Orleans kicks off holiday season with tourism boom

Published: Nov. 28, 2021 at 11:37 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Hundreds of Buffalo Bills fans -- the “Bills Mafia” as they prefer to be called -- lined up Sunday (Nov. 28) at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to head home after spending the long holiday weekend in New Orleans.

Some Saints fans might have mixed feelings, but the crowds made it clear that the visiting fans came to get a Thanksgiving win, but stayed to enjoy everything else the city has to offer.

“Oh yeah, we had a great time,” said Bills fan Robert Parker. “We came in Wednesday. And then the last couple of days, we just enjoyed the hospitality in New Orleans.”

“We hung out on Bourbon Street, did a couple of the tours, got some Felix’s,” said Jen Voelker, another Sunday traveler decked from head to toe in Bills red and blue.

The past four days brought Thanksgiving, the turkey night Bills-Saints game at the Caesars Superdome, the 48th annual Bayou Classic between Southern and Grambling State at the same stadium, the Bayou Classic parade through the French Quarter and downtown, and the annual holiday tree lighting on Canal Street.

Tourism promoter Mary Beth Romig with New Orleans & Company said the slew of events kicking off the holiday season brought perhaps the biggest rebound in New Orleans visitors since the pandemic started.

“We’re grateful to them and we’re so grateful to welcome back the Bayou Classic, that’s for sure,” said Romig.

“There’s such great spirit in town. Hotel occupancy was in the upper 80 percentile. And that comes close, if not matches, where we were in 2019.”

Romig said safety remains the top tourism priority during the pandemic. But the current city-wide vaccine mandate and the FAA’s mask mandate for airports doesn’t seem to be turning people away.

“I’m not going to lie,” Voelker said. “It made me happier that the city had the vaccine mandate in some of the places.”

Isaac Salinas came to New Orleans to visit family for Thanksgiving with his two daughters.

“It’s surprising to see so many people being compliant with the mask mandates and being respectful of everybody else around them,” Salinas said after arriving at the airport.

With so many holiday events still on the docket, Romig said this weekend might be indicative of a very fruitful season for the city.

“Celebration in the Oaks has kicked back up,” she said. “There’s just so many great things happening in the city that we missed out on last year and we’re happy to celebrate again.”

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