New Orleans back in the convention swing

New Orleans has hosted its first major city-wide convention since Hurricane Katrina and ensuing floods damaged 80% of the city last August. The American Library Association (ALA) brought 18,000 delegates to the Louisiana hub from 22-28 June for its annual conference, creating 8,000 peak room nights for almost 30 hotels and generating an economic impact of more than £15m. The city has spent almost a year repairing the damage and has lost more than £1bn in meetings revenues. The ALA was the first association to show support when it confirmed last October that it would go ahead with its June booking. “We’re hoping that the positive media coverage of the conference will help groups that have been holding out on a reconfirmation to make a more informed decision,” said New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO Stephen Perry. International agency Maritz has also shown its support this year by moving its global sales conference to the city from its headquarters in St Louis, Missouri – another move thought to be worth millions in terms of economic impact to the city, according to Perry. Despite some cancellations, business is gradually coming back, says Perry – some from the UK too. “We have a reasonable amount confirmed for 2006, but have retained nearly 90% of the business planned for 2008, so groups are putting their trust in New Orleans,” he added. “We lost three UK groups of about 35 delegates each scheduled to be here this autumn, but other UK groups are rebooking now that they can see the city is alive and well.”

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