The Final Four tournament, The ESSENCE Festival of Culture, the American Society of Hematology — the list of logistically complex events that New Orleans has hosted is impressive. But groups will find that New Orleans is a city specializing in fostering community and creativity, regardless of size.
Right now, New Orleans is seeing the fruits of a destination-wide transformation. Besides a new airport, the iconic Caesars Superdome will wrap a $500-million renovation in time to host the upcoming Super Bowl LIX in 2025 (and celebrate the building’s 50th anniversary). And an ongoing revitalization of the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC) is completely redefining the city’s convention experience. Along with renovating 140 meeting rooms and other interior spaces, an ongoing $557-million capital improvement plan is upgrading the entire exterior experience, including the recent addition of a 7.5-acre pedestrian park that features water elements, live event space, and public art. And the planned 39-acre River District will soon create a new hub of dining, shopping, and entertainment just steps away from the NOENMCC.
Another neighborhood is going through a rebirth — the Riverfront. One of its anchor experiences, Harrah’s New Orleans, will reopen as Caesars New Orleans next year after a major renovation, while across the street the former World Trade Center building now houses the new Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. New developments like these have helped push the area’s hotel inventory to more than 26,000 rooms within a two-mile radius.
An Innovation Capital
Complementing these new assets is a healthy engine of industry, ranging from advanced manufacturing to renewable wind energy, that visiting groups can tap for inspiration and collaboration. It’s here in New Orleans that, in 2021, NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility built the Artemis rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA. And the newly launched Louisiana Wind Energy Hub, a partnership between the University of New Orleans and the UNO Research & Technology Foundation, is helping the state to achieve its goal of generating 5 gigawatts of offshore wind power generation by 2035 as part of its 2022 climate action plan.
Intellectual assets like these have helped New Orleans draw groups like the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which up until 2017 had never met outside of San Francisco. After a successful event in New Orleans that year, the AGU returned for its fall meeting in 2021. “New Orleans has a front row to something we’re very passionate about, and that is the change in climate,” said Lauren Parr, SVP of meetings and learning at AGU, who emphasized how meeting in New Orleans translated into a greater diversity of attendees as well. “We drew from communities … all along the Gulf Coast — students and scientists who really want that connection and want to make a difference in their communities.”
Creating a Brighter Future
New Orleans’ hospitality industry is churning out its own forward-thinking ideas, too. Recycle Dat! — a pilot Mardi Gras recycling program pioneered by the City of New Orleans, New Orleans & Company, Grounds Krewe, the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), and other local non-profits — is repurposing plastic beads, beer cans, and glass bottles collected along the parade route.
And last year, the NOENMCC achieved a major sustainability milestone as part of its capital improvement project — LEED Gold Certification. The facility is now the largest convention center project in the U.S. certified under LEED v4.1 Operations and Maintenance, and the first convention center in the world to earn initial certification under AnchorLEED v4.1 O+M.
“Sustainability and community impact and engagement will continue to be at the top of the list for meeting planners in coming years,” said Walt Leger, president and CEO of New Orleans & Company. “DMOs like New Orleans & Company will be called upon to be great teammates in helping organizations build a well-attended meeting, but also one that achieves the goals of the organization from a sustainability and community impact perspective.”