Not that anybody in New Orleans ever needed an excuse to have a celebration, but seven years after Hurricane Katrina and two years after the BP oil disaster, here's some news certainly worth raising a glass to. Or a Ramos Gin Fizz:
New Orleans just wrapped up the most successful tourism year they have ever had.
Not just their best since Katrina. Ever.
Visitors to the city spent a record-breaking $5.47 billion, according to a study from the University of New Orleans. That's a $180 million boost over 2010 and the 8.75 million tourists they drew is a bump of 5.6% from the year before.
And now, that's all remarkable and noteworthy in its own right. But here's where we think things get particularly interesting/ironic. The driving force behind this surge in NOLA tourism is the very thing which at one time threatened to torpedo it: The BP oil disaster.
Say what now?
Yup. This past year, tourism agencies had an additional $3.8 million to spend on marketing because of the payout the oil giant made to communities impacted by the spill.
If you were among the masses who spotted a TV commercial or print ad inviting you to visit the Big Easy, you now know why. The president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. told NOLA.com the "BP Cash" went right into a big-time ad push targeting major metropolitan areas.
And with visitors come jobs. New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieau says 3,000 new jobs were created last year in the tourism sector, which remains a key vehicle in the effort to drive the city's recovery. "The city of New Orleans is punching way above its weight," he told NOLA.com.
And the hits will keep on coming: This weekend thousands of college basketball fans and roughly half the state of Kentucky will swarm the city as it hosts the Final Four. This is just three months after college football's national championship game was played in the Superdome, which is also the site of next year's Super Bowl.
Laissez les bons temps rouler, indeed... and rouler and rouler all over again.