New Orleans hotels almost full occupancy for Carnival

NEW ORLEANS — If you have friends or family planning to come in town for Mardi Gras who haven’t made hotel reservations, time is running out.

It’s looking like record crowds will be in the city next month.

Tourism leaders say the city was sold out during Sugar Bowl time, and the trend is continuing.

“There’s a lot of demand for New Orleans right now. We’re a hot destination,” said Mark Romig, president and CEO of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

The captain of Endymion said his extravaganza has the highest number of bookings ever at 20,000. Other captains tell him the same.

He believes it’s the big-name celebrities and concerts, mixed with all the free parades.

“Endymion has 3,100 riders this year, 1,000 of which don’t live in New Orleans. Whenwe started, we only had 144 and they all lived in Gentilly,” said Captain Ed Muniz.

He said Mardi Gras is a great mixture of krewes for the locals and those making it a tourist destination.

We went online to see if we could book hotel rooms for the big weekend just before Carnival Day, and while there were some openings, many were full or almost full.

Mavis Earl, executive director of the GNO Hotel and Lodging Association, said hotel occupancy is over 90 percent, and many expect to sell out, making this Mardi Gras stronger than last year’s.

The tourism industry says not only does the city offer what no other city does, but BP money after the oil spill in 2010 and grants after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 funded advertising in some cities for the first time. There’s also new software technology called Arrivalist, which is hard proof that people who see the ads make their way to the Crescent City.

“We’re able to track someone who initially sees our advertising or our message on their iPhone and we’re tracking them if that iPhone shows up in New Orleans,” Romig said.

But he said the biggest megaphone for the greatest free show on earth is how popular the city is on free social media.

Tourism leaders say they do get questions from potential visitors who are concerned about crime in the city. They give them safety advice on how to lower their risk, especially not wandering off alone at night.

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