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Posted: Thursday, 19 September 2013 6:13AM

New Orleans is North America's top destination for sports fans

Chalk up another accolade for New Orleans. The city has received top honors at the 2013 World Travel Awards.

It's an award that has Jay Cicero, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, beaming.

"This is great news," says Cicero. New Orleans has been recognized as 'North America's Leading Sports Tourism Destination'."

Voters from a worldwide audience selected New Orleans over leading destinations such as Chicago, Las Vegas and New York City for excellence in sports tourism.

"We compete with the biggest and the best in the country and the Sports Foundation is proud to play a role in that," Cicero says, quickly noting that it was and continues to be a team effort, involving the city itself, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.

"This recognition from the World Travel Awards is testament to our city's unique ability to host the most spectacular events on the planet," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "From Super Bowl XLVII to the 2014 NBA All Star Game to WrestleMania XXX, New Orleans will continue to partner with leading organizations, large and small, to host world-class events where residents and visitors have enjoyable and safe experiences."

"This award recognizes the extraordinary dedication and professionalism of the hospitality industry in our city," noted Stephen Perry, President and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Few places in North America can offer the combination of sporting venues, hotel rooms, and convention and meeting facilities that New Orleans can, and of course there's no better place to hold a celebration."

"New Orleans provides the complete visitor package to sports enthusiasts from around the globe," said Mark Romig, President and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. "From thousands of hotels rooms to hundreds of restaurants and music venues and eye-popping museums and attractions within an easy stroll to the sports district, New Orleans is the ideal venue for any sporting event."

Cicero says he's thrilled, but not all that surprised, considering all the events that have taken place in New Orleans recently.

And, he can rattle them off quickly. "A BCS National Championship, the Mens' and Women's Final Four, a Super Bowl...plus the annual events like the Sugar Bowl,
New Orleans Bowl, Zurich Classic, Bayou Classic. The events that we've had over the past year, year-and-a-half, really are testament to what New Orleans is capable of, as far as hosting major events. And, when you  include the Saints and the Pelicans...a pretty great sports city," says Cicero.

"There's something very special about New Orleans," he says. "Our passion for sporting events is ingrained into the city's one of a kind culture, history, and ambiance, and only trumped by the professionalism of our tourism and hospitality industry. It's not hard to understand why New Orleans won this prestigious award."

Might it bode even more success in the future for the newly-crowned 'Sports Capitol of the Continent'? 

"It's kind of hard to tell whether or not it's going to have major influence" Cicero says. "But, certainly something as prestigious as this is important in our overall repertoire of sporting events and the recognition associated with it. "Any award and any recognition helps put out great news for New Orleans and may influence someone to choose New Orleans over another city, whether it's voting on a sporting event or choosing to come to New Orleans for a weekend."
Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson added that "New Orleans is a world class city. Our sports facilities are second to none. Our hotels and hospitality are the gold standard.  As an owner for an NFL and NBA franchise; I hear firsthand from other owners about their desire to come and enjoy our city and its hospitality. They cite the proximity of our hotels, restaurants and entertainment to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the Arena. It is the perfect city to host any sporting event and I am proud to have the opportunity to share it with everyone."

(Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz Superdome)

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