Travel to New Orleans is bustling once again. A study conducted by the University of New Orleans (UNO) Hospitality Research Center concludes the city hosted a record-breaking 10.45 million visitors last year. That represents a 6.9 percent increase over 2015 and the largest number of visitors to the city in more than a decade.

The news is music to the ears of New Orleans tourism officials and the mayor, who alluded to the UNO survey as a goal for reaching more impressive numbers in 2017.

“The New Orleans tourism industry experienced yet another breakthrough year in 2016,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “This exciting achievement is a testament to our city’s unique ability to host tourists and major events like no other. I look forward to 2017 being an even bigger year for the tourism industry in New Orleans.”

The increase in visitors to New Orleans translated into economic growth, as well. UNO’s “New Orleans Area Visitor Profile” reports visitors spent $7.41 billion in 2016, a 5.1 percent increase compared to 2015.

Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the increased dollars spent while visiting the city is the result of a planned media and public relations campaign that carefully targeted convention business and leisure travelers.

Among the beneficiaries of increased revenues is Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). John Williams, dean of the UNO College of Business Administration, attributed the economic gains to “New Orleans’ exquisite restaurants, lavish hotels, sporting events, convention center, varied and numerous festivals, museums and other attractions.”

The 2016 economic data offers a stark contrast to the dramatic decline that resulted in 2006, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged The Big Easy. The reported $7.41 billion in visitor spending last year represents a 51 percent increase since 2004, the year before Katrina.

Additional UNO study data:

Visitation and spending in New Orleans increased nearly 26 percent and 40 percent, respectively, since 2010.
13.3 percent of visitors reported they traveled to New Orleans for association, convention, tradeshow or corporate meetings.
10 percent of visitors reported they traveled to New Orleans for general business.
55.4 percent of visitors who traveled to New Orleans for convention and business reported they extended their stay an average of two nights to “enjoy the city.”