Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fest Season in Full Swing in New Orleans -- Jazz Fest or Bust!

(from the New Orleans Times-Picayune)

French Quarter Festival, Zurich Classic, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival -- all in the next four weeks, and all music to the ears of the local tourism industry.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
By Jaquetta White

It may already be the second day of the 24th annual French Quarter Festival, but it is just the beginning of a four-week period that is shaping up to be quite promising for many restaurants, retailers and hotels.

The French Quarter Festival, the Zurich Classic and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be held on successive weekends this year, providing tourist-dependent businesses with a relatively steady stream of potential business just before the traditionally slow summer days arrive.

"The next few weeks are going to be terrific," said Mark Wilson, president of the French Quarter Business Association. "Starting right now, businesses in the Quarter are going to be excited."

The French Quarter Festival, which began Friday and ends Sunday, is expected draw about 400,000 people. A reinvigorated Zurich Classic of New Orleans will follow, kicking off Thursday and running through next weekend. That event, which for the first time features concerts after the tournament, usually draws more than 100,000 golf fans. Jazzfest, on consecutive weekends in April and May, could draw about 400,000 people each weekend, with many of the attendees coming from out of town.

"I think this year is going to be a record-breaking time, at least compared to last year," Wilson said.

Thanks to a change in scheduling for the FedEx Cup golf tournament in Memphis, Tenn., the Zurich Classic will not have to compete with Jazzfest for attendees this year. In the past, the local golf tournament has fallen on one of the weekends of Jazzfest.

The change is a welcome treat for hotels, restaurants, bars and retail shops in need of customers.

"I think that will help us," said Fred Sawyers, president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association and general manager of the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. "The more that you can spread out those events to ensure that everybody can get accommodations at the different price points, it certainly helps."

Early accounts indicate that Sawyers and others in the hospitality industry will not be disappointed.

Sawyers said local hotels are on pace to have a 90 percent occupancy rate for Jazzfest and the Zurich Classic.

Here's the full story.

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