NEW ORLEANS, LA. – New Orleans tourism marketing leaders say there’s good change in the air when it comes to holiday travel to the city. Usually a slow time of year with tourists, they say the trend’s shifting, and New Orleans is becoming a popular Christmas destination.
With its flocked trees and thousands of white lights, people enjoy the lobby at the Roosevelt Hotel, downtown. A few blocks away in the French Quarter, some savor Christmas dinner at Royal House Oyster Bar.
“We had broiled oysters. We had raw oysters and we had fried oysters and some gumbo,” said Tammy Brown. She and Tom Sarpolus are visiting from Kema, TX South of Houston ahead of Monday night’s Saints vs. Falcons matchup. “We’re here to see the Saints win one more game. Never been there before and we’re looking very much forward to it,” said Sarpolus.
“Last night when we were opening presents it seemed kind of slim, but today it’s paying off,” said Kyle Spencer of North Mississippi. Santa treated Spencer’s family to gameday tickets.
“We’ve been listed as one of the top three destinations in the nation for the holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” said Mark Romig, CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. He said the city is seeing more and more people in town for “Christmas New Orleans Style,” a month-long festival that started December 1st that includes specially priced Reveillon dinners at area restaurants.
“We’re doing a braised lamb shank, which is different from our normal menu. We also have some alligator sausage appetizers, fried red fish beignets with a crystal hot sauce on it,” said Shad Stearns, General Manager at Royal House Oyster Bar.
Christmas concerts at St. Louis Cathedral and St. Augustine Church in Treme have been at capacity. “It was not unheard of to ask who was from out of town and 90 percent of the crowd would raise their hand and say we’re from out of town so we know our message is getting out,” said Romig. He explained that there seems to be a shift in the traditionally slower winter months in the city.
“We are seeing a change in travel patterns to New Orleans. People recognize us as a really authentic unique destination for the holidays so we think our marketing message is grabbing on,” said Romig.
The “Christmas New Orleans Style” campaign wraps up next weekend, but the calendar for this upcoming week is jam packed. Tomorrow, the Saints will play the Falcons and Wednesday the Hornets host the Celtics at the Hive for their regular season home opener.
Then New Year’s Day, the Saints are back in the Dome to face the Panthers and 24 hours later New Orleans hosts the Sugar Bowl.