Updated: January 8, 2014 at 3:46 pm
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — An executive with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau has some advice for leaders in the city's tourism business: "Start learning Chinese."
Kim Priez said a big push to draw travelers from around the world, including an emphasis on China, is part of the New Orleans CVB's 2014 marketing strategy. The 70-page plan was released Wednesday morning during a meeting at a downtown New Orleans hotel.
Plans outlined by the organization's CEO, Stephen Perry, and others aim at improving on an already-flourishing tourism industry in New Orleans by increasing visits during slower seasons, such as mid-summer, and boosting mid-week tourism business. The industry is the area's largest employer, with more than 70,000 hospitality-related jobs. Last spring's annual CVB assessment said that in 2012 the city drew 9 million who spent $6 billion.
Priez said New Orleans already does a good job of seeking European tourists.
"We are one of the leading mid-sized cities in America that goes after that European business because of our heritage," she said. "But we are missing the mark on a lot of other markets that are really making a monetary difference on the West Coast, the East Coast."
So she said the CVB is expanding its marketing into China, Brazil and Australia.
"The international market is an area where we can expand on occupancy greatly. Everyone else is also pursuing it so it's a very competitive market; but I believe we need to be in that arena," Priez said.
The CVB's first efforts to draw Chinese visitors began 18 months ago and are beginning to pay off, she said. The bureau plans to step up its efforts. "Eighteen months from now, it will be amazing, the difference in the Chinese market for this city."
Foreign visitors are especially good because they often stay longer than visitors from within the U.S. "They stay six to seven nights in our city," Priez said during a panel discussion that included other New Orleans CVB officials as well as Mark Romig, head of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.
Romig said the NOTMC was continuing the "Follow your NOLA" advertising campaign, including fast-paced television commercials showing colorful images of the city, to be broadcast in markets around the nation.