Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 ravaged the city of New Orleans almost to the point of beyond repair. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, 10.1 million visitors came to New Orleans in 2004, and the city was on pace to break that level of visitation in 2005 before Katrina hit August 29, 2005. Mardi Gras in 2006 was the 150th anniversary of Mardi Gras parading in New Orleans, but because of the previous year’s disaster, Mardi Gras was not the celebration it should have been potentially. Mardi Gras 2007 was the bounce-back year for Mardi Gras, with an estimated crowd of 800,000 and area hotels reporting a 95% occupancy rate throughout the last weekend of Mardi Gras exceeding the crowd 2006 of 700,000, but less than the 1 million crowds pre-Katrina. In 2008, New Orleans has excellent attendance records at special events and festivals such as Sugar Bowl (BSC Championship), and NBA All-Star Game. Visitors to New Orleans were estimated to be 7.9 million in 2009, which is an increase over 2008 (two hurricanes hit Louisiana in 2008). Mardi Gras and New Orleans tourism in general is a $5.5 billion industry with $15.2 million lost every day without tourism. Tourism accounts for 40% of New Orleans' tax revenues annually. Tourism employed 85,000 people pre-Katrina, making it New Orleans' top industry. Mardi Gras generates $20.5 million in direct tax revenues for the city of New Orleans and has a direct cost of $4.6 million for additional city services such as police overtime, sanitation, etc. - a more than 4-to-1 return on investment (Source: Tulane University study conducted by Dr. James McLain, 2003). Total visitor spending in 2004 was $4.9 billion; 2006 $2.9 billion: 2007 $4.8 billion; 2008 $5.1 billion. Mardi Gras party supplies
is just one small slice of the spending pie. New Orleans’ tourism industry welcomed 8.3 million visitors in 2010, a 10.7 % increase over 2009, and the first time to reach 8 million visitors since Katrina. Those 8.3 million visitors spent $5.3 billion, a $1.1 billion increase over 2009 and the highest spending in the city’s history. Domestic and international visitors spent $9.3 billion in the state of Louisiana in 2010. (Source: New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau). Mardi Gras is unique compared with other festivals in New Orleans because it is a year round event. While the official season runs from the second Friday before Fat Tuesday through the end of Fat Tuesday, as soon as one year’s season is over, Krewe Captains begin planning their themes for the following year. If such trends continue for the city of New Orleans, Mardi Gras, and other tourists attractions should steadily rise in the coming years. Optimism for New Orleans occupants and the potential to grow business and revenue pre-Katrina is a major factor to ensure New Orleans thrives even more."