In a city where tourism and hospitality rank as top job-producing industries, business events count more than ever. On Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID), March 30 this year, New Orleans & Company convened hundreds of meetings industry and industry-adjacent professionals — and hosted a handful of trade media journalists, including me — at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans to highlight the power and potential of business events.
The gathering also provided a forum for industry leaders to discuss ongoing challenges, including how to balance growth with sustainability and the need to increase talent attraction and retention. PCMA President & CEO Sherrif Karamat spoke on the latter, calling for the industry to level up efforts to promote the business events industry as a lucrative career path to students and young people. “There is no better industry to be in than the business events industry,” he said, adding that PCMA is currently working with colleges and universities around the world to set up a free global resource for internship opportunities. “You touch every sector of society, whether it’s a climate, fraternal, or a medical organization.”
The panel’s composition was an example of that reach — in addition to Karamat, there were two clients of the destination (and Louisiana natives): Lauren Parr, SVP of meetings and learning at American Geophysical Union (AGU), and Ryan E. Tucker, deputy executive director of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. In 2021, AGU brought its annual fall meeting to New Orleans and will convene again in The Big Easy in 2025; next year, Tucker’s fraternity will host its annual Founder’s Day event in the city. New Orleans & Company’s Stephanie Turner, SVP of convention sales and strategies, and Walt Leger III, president and CEO, also participated.
Meanwhile, proof of the GMID conversation about the role events play in moving business forward could be found just a few blocks away, where that day thousands of business leaders and startup founders were gathering at Gallier Hall for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) 2023, a six-day festival now in its 12th year. Our media group popped over to sample some of NOEW’s program, which featured educational sessions and panels including such speakers as Steve Case, former CEO of AOL, and former NBA player Taylor Griffin. NOEW also hosts an Ideapitch competition, where entrepreneurs from the region present their business ideas and compete for cash prizes. Past winners have included Something Borrowed Blooms, which rents silk flowers for weddings, and TrayAway, a contactless room tray removal technology for hotels.
NOEW speaker Bonin Bough — marketing executive, investor, and author who has worked with brands like Mondelez and PepsiCo — spoke about the power of events like SXSW and NOEW to launch new ideas and businesses, and the role that destinations play in that success. “New Orleans has the ability to draw because it has the cultural relevance that people seek,” he said, adding that the city’s younger population and higher education institutions contribute greatly to that strength. “You all are driving the pool of investments.”
In recent years, New Orleans has seen a boom in new hospitality development that is redefining the city’s hosting capabilities. That includes an ongoing half-billion-dollar capital improvement plan at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, new hotels like the recently opened Virgin Hotels New Orleans and Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, and a brand-new airport. Caesars Entertainment is also investing more than $325 million in new projects on New Orleans’ riverfront, with a rebranding of the Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel & Casino and the opening of a new hotel tower. For more on these projects, look for our destination recap published in our upcoming May-June issue.
Jennifer N. Dienst is senior editor at Convene.
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