Five years after Katrina, New Orleans hits tourism record

Five years after the devastating hurricane which decimated much of New Orleans in 2005, the city has bounced back, posting record tourism figures last year according to figures released this week.

The Lousiana city welcomed 8.3 million visitors in 2010, according to a study released by tourism officials, a ten percent jump from 2009's total and the highest figure since 2004.

The figures also showed that the amount spent by those visiting hit a record high, reaching $5.3 billion in 2010, up over a billion dollars from 2009 and an average of $142 per visitor per day for tourists.

The figures were welcomed by officials of the city, which ranks tourism as its most important economic engine.

"Coming out of the strong economic downturn, and on top of the difficult perception challenges created by the BP oil spill, the city hosted multiple attendance record-breaking conventions, festivals, had strong leisure and transient results and ended the year as the number one fastest-growing destination in the country for hotel performance," said tourism boss Stephen Perry.

In the year after Hurricane Katrina, tourism figures in New Orleans fell to just under three million as the city struggled to rebuild following the worst natural disaster in US history.

Since then, numbers have risen steadily, helped in part by tens of thousands of visitors who visited with the intention of rolling up their sleeves and helping out while visiting - the city now boasts 300 more restaurants than it did in 2005, according to official figures.

Traveling to New Orleans to lend a hand has become so popular that the state has even set up its own "voluntourism" travel site, at http://www.volunteerlouisiana.gov/.

With the recovery well underway, visitor numbers to the city could reach 13.7 million by 2018, according to projections.

http://www.neworleansonline.com

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