New Orleans is a brilliant testament to persevering through challenging times. It’s a model for embracing change, creative planning and for calling on its top thinkers and doers to help it emerge better and stronger than ever.
Associations have faced their own challenges in recent years, including an economic downturn impacting everything from meeting sites to membership numbers, which makes The Big Easy a perfect setting for association conferences. NOLA’s indomitable spirit and success in reinventing itself easily provide inspiration for meetings, members and leadership.
“Our city is thriving,” says Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. “In 2014, we will host major events such as the NBA All-Star Game and WrestleMania XXX.”
That’s on the heels of 2013, an incredible year starting with Super Gras, when Super Bowl XLVII was held during Mardi Gras, and finishing with a fall 2013 convention calendar up 60 percent from the previous year.
“Major initiatives over the next five years, leading up to the city’s tricentennial in 2018,” Perry says, “include a new world-class airport, a new riverfront development, incredible enhancements at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, a wonderful Convention Center Boulevard and so much more.”
The CVB is one of the city’s best assets, voted by its customers among the top five convention and visitor bureaus in the country. That’s no surprise to many planners.
“The New Orleans CVB was a wealth of information and communicated every step of the way,” says Jessica Castillo, CMP, senior manager of meeting services for the North American Spine Society (NASS), which held its 28th annual meeting in NOLA in October with 6,794 in attendance. “The marketing tools they offer as a complimentary service to planners are a great resource; those tools help ensure that their services are above and beyond those in many other convention cities.”
And the praise was not just for pre-conference assistance. “My experience has been that CVBs spend a great deal of time with you before you sign on the dotted line, after which they are available when needed but not so proactive,” says Kristen Penczek, interim executive director of the International Dyslexia Association, whose annual IDA Reading, Literacy & Learning Conference in November attracted 2,000 attendees. “We spent as much time working with the New Orleans CVB after contract, leading up to and after our conference. Our every need was met or exceeded, from a quick response to creation of a microsite to offers to assist in various ways. Seriously, we were spoiled.”
Tina Gaerlan, CMP, conference and events manager for IMA, the Institute of Management Accountants, which had its annual conference and exposition for nearly 1,000 attendees in June, appreciated the CVB’s efforts to save her group money. “The CVB took us around the neighborhoods and showed us great places for dining. They provided us with magazines and guides of New Orleans, which included discounts…and they solicited discounts on our behalf from local restaurants, bars, museums and tours to offer our attendees and their guests.”