Convention & Visitors Bureau seeks local support for more tourists

NEW ORLEANS - Black, white and red signs up across the region say, "New Orleans will."

"New Orleans will what?" asked Pamela Brookins, who is visiting New Orleans from Texas.

Even the website it sends you to,, doesn't tell you who's behind the campaign. It's all a strategy by the Convention and Visitors Bureau to get locals interested in something they might otherwise ignore.

"We didn't want it to be so much focused on tourism with the name so that way people thought, 'oh well that's about tourism it doesn't apply to me.' When really, that's the point. It does apply to you," said Kelly Schulz, vice president of communications and public relations for the New Orleans CVB.

Schulz says gaining local support for more tourists is crucial to their mission, which reads: "Developing and marketing the New Orleans region as the premier convention and visitor destination."

Local tourism industry leaders' five-year goal is to increase the number of tourists from 9 million to 14 million people a year. But Schulz says the $13.5 million budget isn't enough to market the city and reach that mark.

In comparison, she says it's $4 million less than Denver's marketing budget, $6 million less than Atlanta's, and $25 million less than Orlando's.

She says one way to get more money is by having local hotels sign up to pay a new voluntary assessment fee.

"That will allow the hotels to assess a fee, and for that fee to go into marketing for the city of New Orleans," Schulz said.

They hope local support will encourage the businesses to sign up and to persuade politicians to increase funding in the future.

Part of the long-term goal is to bring visitors beyond Bourbon Street. Some French Quarter advocates say that is necessary because, they ask, how many more visitors can the Quarter really fit?

"Does more automatically mean better? Our concern is that we need to have some mitigation of the effects of tourism, which includes the increased need for sanitation, for infrastructure improvements, for security," said Meg Lousteau, executive director of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates, Inc.

A concern, Schulz says, the hotel assessment fee for more marketing and infrastructure funding should address. It's why the "New Orleans Will" campaign aims to build local support so New Orleans can grow tourism in a smart and sustainable way.