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A Wealth of New Facilities Has New Orleans Primed for Post-Pandemic Meetings
Credit: Todd Coleman.
For a destination that prides itself on the pageantry of its history, a lot has changed in New Orleans since the pandemic essentially shut the Crescent City down for meetings more than a year ago.
But while one could assume the destination spent 2020 sprucing up for an eventual reopening, New Orleans was actually already in motion with a number of significant upgrades and additions to its tourism and meetings offering.
“This all started before the pandemic, probably in the fall of 2019,” said Stephanie Turner, senior vice president, convention sales and strategies for New Orleans & Company, the city’s CVB. “There was so much progress taking place in New Orleans, such as the new airline terminal, which opened in November, that we need a new unifying message that spoke to who we are as a people and destination.”
New Orleans & Company pitched in to help the local hospitality community—and address the labor supply shortage that is affecting every other destination in the U.S.—by hosting job fairs for its 1,100 members.
“We understand there’s been so much incredible change in our industry, so our organization has made it a priority to understand and help our customers navigate through that from the sourcing side, the promotion side and the services on the ground,” Turner said. “We are aiming to make it the most efficient [it can be], understanding that our customers may be dealing with big changes in their organizations, too. That’s our guiding focus.”
What’s New in New Orleans
New Orleans has been busy, since even before the COVID-19 pandemic, upgrading its meetings and tourism offerings and is now ready to welcome back the crowds to a wide range of new facilities that are ripe for meetings and events.
“Most of the venues have been able to renovate and reimagine how people are meeting now and what that looks like,” Turner said. “Outdoor space is so hot now, and the new pedestrian park is now being activated, and tradeshows have resumed in New Orleans. We’re continuing to strengthen our pipeline with people who are built to host, and hospitality is inherent in them.”
Following are some of the major projects that are ready to welcome visitors, whether leisure or coming to town with business meetings in mind.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
In November 2019, New Orleans’ airport completed a new state-of-the-art, $1 billion terminal that is geared toward handling large groups, with more than 100 check-in counters, 35 gates and a consolidated security checkpoint that is 17 lanes wide.
Along with a variety of new food options, including New Orleans standbys like Cafe Du Monde, Bar Sazerac and Emeril’s Table, the new terminal also boasts a “Jazz Garden” in the baggage claim areas that stages live jazz music and other entertainment throughout the day.
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
Ongoing renovations at the city’s main convention center, which offers more than a million square feet of exhibit space, include a nearly $560-million improvement project that involves renovations to its 140 meeting rooms with new digital signage, a new transportation hub and a complete makeover of its exterior design.
Perhaps the most appealing addition for meetings and events is the new 7.5-acre pedestrian park on Convention Center Boulevard that offers live event spaces, numerous art installations and interactive water elements and shaded gathering places.
The new pedestrian park joins several riverfront projects that are underway and that, when completed, will offer more than four miles of uninterrupted access to the Mississippi River, according to New Orleans & Company.
Home of the New Orleans Saints and many Super Bowls, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome expanded its concourses and upgraded its technology and suite offering. The facility features more than 160,000 square feet of event space and a number of premium lounges that are available for events.
Higgins Hotel & Conference Center
The official hotel of the popular National World War II Museum, this 230-room Art Deco-style hotel and conference center near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center offers exclusive curated programs in conjunction with the museum. The property offers more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space and 14 meeting rooms.
Kimpton Hotel Fontenot
Also located in the Warehouse District, this 202-room hotel will offer more than 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space when the majority of it is scheduled to be online in spring 2022. As with any Kimpton hotel, F&B will be a prime feature, with the Fontenot offering the ornately designed Peacock Room and curiously named Gospel Coffee and Boozy Treats venue, where “booze can be added to anything, from coffee to custard.”
Four Seasons Hotel + Residences
The luxury hotel chain’s first branded property in the Big Easy is scheduled to open in August 2021 in the former World Trade Center Building, which sits along the Mississippi River. The 34-story mixed-use development will contain a 341-room hotel on the lower floors and 81 luxury condominiums on the upper levels.
The Four Seasons will also offer two restaurants and more than 22,000 square feet of meeting space. Features will include a rooftop pool and bar, a cultural museum and a two-story rooftop public observation area and roof deck on the top two floors. The opening of the property will coincide with the unveiling of the revitalization of Spanish Plaza and its landmark fountain.
Virgin Hotel New Orleans
Scheduled for a September 2021 opening, the Virgin Hotel New Orleans is situated in the city’s Warehouse District near the Central Business District. The 225-room property features the brand-new flagship Commons Club, which offers a restaurant, bar and The Shag Room, an intimate space where small groups can gather for private events and activations. Other on-property meeting and event options include The Manor, Founder’s Room, The Sandbox, The Study, The Pool Club and lounge and prefunction space.
The Roosevelt New Orleans
The historic The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel underwent a massive $20 million renovation in 2019, including a $5 million remodeling of its 60,000 feet of meeting and banquet space. All 504 guest rooms were renovated by the end of 2019.
With its opening in December 2020, ONE11 is the French Quarter’s first new hotel in over 50 years. The eight-story, 83-room boutique hotel is located in New Orleans’ historic Sugar District Waterfront and was formerly home to The Louisiana Sugar Refining Company. ONE11 offers various settings for intimate group events, such as afternoon cocktails on The Loading Dock or an evening on the rooftop featuring panoramic views of the French Quarter and Mississippi River. ONE11 Hotel is also home to Batture Bistro + Bar, a casual hub for craft cocktails and small bites.
Maison de la Luz Hotel
This 67-room luxury boutique guest house from the Ace Hotel brand opened in late 2019 and features a rooftop pool and the stunning, scarlet-red Bar Marilou. Housed in a renovated 1908 building in the Warehouse District, the property’s richly decorated salon and living room make for great post-meeting mingling spaces.
Other recent boutique hotel options in the city include Hotel Saint Vincent and The Chloe.
The Sazerac House
Opened in September 2019, this museum is also a bar and distillery that celebrates the unique character and cocktails of New Orleans—starring the world-famous Sazerac cocktail—and offers 13 meeting and event spaces. Groups can tap 1940s-style entertainment and book catering packages. A highlight venue is the 16,000-square-foot US Freedom Pavilion, which boasts elevated catwalks offering eye-level views of WWII-era aircraft.
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