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Mardi Gras Returns to New Orleans

February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras Returns to New Orleans
February 28, 2006 – Six months following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras returns to the Big Easy. Mardi Gras is considered a celebration of the human spirit and this celebration is vital to the New Orleans economy, generating millions in direct tax revenues to the city, paying for services necessary for recovery and bringing displaced residents back home.

"For us it will be a little bit smaller than prior years. But the way everybody is looking at it here, it’s sort of the community planting the flag in the ground saying ‘We’re back,’" Stephen Perry, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

Perry expects the city to see about 60 or 70 percent of the usual number of Mardi Gras visitors this year – 300,000 to 400,000 people. Mardi Gras usually brings in about $300 million in tourist dollars, and Perry expects at least $200 million this year.

Hospitality is the largest industry in New Orleans, having employed 85,000 people before Katrina and generating about a third of the city’s operating budget, according to Perry. Before Mardi Gras, tourism had rebounded to about half its normal level.

"This launches the recovery of not only the city and its economics, but paves the way for people to begin to come home because it provides the funding that we need for things like schools and hospitals and police," he said.

Mardi Gras historically served as an event to revive New Orleans economy. Rex, the oldest day parade, founded in 1872, was started largely to speed up economic recovery during the difficult Reconstruction period in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is a critical event in the efforts to rebuild New Orleans and its chief economic driver, tourism.

NTA conducted a series of interviews with tourism professionals from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to get a firsthand update regarding the recovery process. Excerpts of each of the interviews appeared in NTA’s weekly e-newsletter, Tuesday, from Jan. 24 through Feb. 21. To read each part of the series, click here.

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