Preliminary data from the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation shows Super Bowl XLVII brought an estimated 150,000 visitors to New Orleans, and is expected to rake in an estimated $432 million for the city’s economy.
Just about 80 miles up the road here in the capital city, tourism spill-over from the Super Bowl-boom gave Baton Rouge a bit of an economic bump as well.
Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo says Baton Rouge started planning for Super Bowl 2013 in 2009, when New Orleans was initially chosen for the site.
Arrigo says the capital city’s tourism success this past weekend boils down to three things:
ARRIGO: It was the availability of hotel rooms, it was the accessibility of getting to Baton Rouge and it was the affordability of hotel rooms, particularly with the fans who got Super Bowl tickets two weeks out. The corporate sponsors and what have you were already settled in New Orleans, you know, weeks ago. But the true fan who was in a lottery that got the tickets two weeks or less than two weeks out were the ones that we had stay here in Baton Rouge and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Mardi Gras parades we had, downtown square we had a celebration called Fan Fest.
WESTERMAN: The last time the Super Bowl was in New Orleans was 2002, as you very well may know. Did Baton Rouge experience any spill-over at that time?
ARRIGO: We did and we realized there was an opportunity. Now since 2002, you’ve got more hotel rooms in New Orleans, the emergence of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and more hotels in Baton Rouge, and between New Orleans and Baton Rouge so it was going to be much more competitive. We marketed Baton Rouge in San Francisco and in Baltimore. We did advertising PR and we also did some social media on those two teams’ sites.
WESTERMAN: How much is Baton Rouge supposed to profit from Super Bowl spill-over this year?
ARRIGO: 2013. I would like to think if we filled about 80 to 90 percent of our hotel rooms, which we think we did and we’ll have those numbers in the next couple of days, I think it was probably somewhere around a $16 million impact.
WESTERMAN: And where did that mostly come from? Hotel bookings?
ARRIGO: Hotels, restaurants, people spending money to casinos, plantation homes, what have you.
WESTERMAN: And so you just mentioned all of the events and things that went on this weekend, what was the turnout like?
ARRIGO: The turnout on Saturday for the two parades and Rockin Dopsie, between the two parades, was outstanding. I don’t think I’ve seen Town Square as full since it opened the way it’s been redesigned. So the turnout downtown and in the hotels, just outstanding.
WESTERMAN: Do you have a neighborhood estimate of how many people you think were downtown?
ARRIGO: Oh, God, not really because I was in the one area with the square but I think there were several thousand people in the square.
WESTERMAN: Will Baton Rouge remain a cheaper alternative, hotel and flight-wise, for New Orleans for big events in the future?
ARRIGO: Boy, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were more expensive than New Orleans? But, no, I think that you’re going to find that’s the case. But on the other hand, for LSU games people stay in New Orleans. For different events in Baton Rouge, people stay in New Orleans. So it’s not as though we’re capturing everything but I’d like to think we are an affordable alternative to New Orleans.
WESTERMAN: Okay, and since you work for Visit Baton Rouge, what kind of things are you all doing now to ensure that that complimentary relationship continues?
ARRIGO: Well, we do have a great relationship with the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, particularly with our tourism departments where a visitor to Baton Rouge would include New Orleans as part of their itinerary, and often an international visitor to New Orleans would include Baton Rouge as part of their itinerary. So we’re in constant contact and relationship with our counterparts there and in the Lafayette and other cities, Natchitoches, what have you because we realize that when a visitor, particularly an international visitor comes to Louisiana they don’t realize the borders. They don’t realize they’re in East Baton Rouge Parish or New Orleans or Lafayette or what have you. It’s all to them either New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Louisiana. So, yes, we work very closely with everyone in that regard.
WESTERMAN: Despite the outage last night, do you think that the Super Bowl will be back in New Orleans?
ARRIGO: God, I hope so and I think it will. I think New Orleans is a great venue for a Super Bowl and certainly it’s an opportunity for us to present Louisiana and the culture of Louisiana as a unique experience.