March Mardi Gras may mean a massive crowd in New Orleans
Don Ames Reporting
New Orleans' 2014 Fat Tuesday celebration is only the second March Mardi Gras the city has seen in the last ten years.
And, Kelly Schulz, with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, says it's worth waiting for.
"The late Mardi Gras is great for the city, especially because it gives travelers a lot more time to plan their trip. And, because it coincides with many spring breaks at many universities around the country."
Mardi Gras actually came later in 2011, when Fat Tuesday fell on March 8th.
Schulz says, so far, things are looking good for big crowd this year...but there's still room for more.
"Hotel occupancy is very strong. We're seeing occupancy in the high 90 percent, which means that people still do have time to make their reservations."
But, she warns that demand is running high. "There's so much interest in New Orleans right now," says Schulz. "We're just come off a really successful NBA All-Star game that put us in the international spotlight. We've been named one of the top places to visit in the world for 2014 by National Geographic Traveler. So, people are always drawn to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but this year we're seeing a lot of really good energy and a lot of momentum."
Maybe a post-Katrina record crowd?
"Usually, it's about a million people, between locals and visitors, that celebrate Mardi Gras," Schulz says. "But, it could be hard to top what we call 'Lombardi Gras' when the Saints had just won the Super Bowl. I think it's looking really good, though, with a combination of really good factors...good weather, later in the year...lots of positive focus on New Orleans right now."
And, it's likely the city's celebration will mean a lot more positive press, worldwide.
"We're seeing really strong demand, not just from visitors, but from members of the international media that want to come and cover New Orleans," says Schulz.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau is hosting several journalists that are going to come to the city and report on their experiences at Mardi Gras.
"So, our goal at the CVB is to make sure that, not only are people coming for this Mardi Gras, but that we're getting really positive international media coverage of the events that will appeal to travelers to come back in the future."
And, she says locals can help in that effort.
"I always like to remind our locals...If you see visitors, tell them 'hello', and thank them for coming to the city. The one thing that our visitors love the most about New Orleans is the hospitality and how our people make them feel so welcome. So, just tell visitors 'Thank You', and invite them to come back."