Over air, land and sea, the city’s tourism industry is reveling in a batch of good news, starting with a recent federal report on international travel. The National Travel and Tourism Office says New Orleans saw a 37 percent increase in foreign tourists in 2015, the largest one-year gain among all major U.S. cities.
Government figures show a record 77.5 million overseas tourists visited the United States last year, a 3 percent gain from 2014 and the sixth straight annual increase. Especially with the Crescent City’s 2018 tricentennial celebrations drawing near, local tourism officials have targeted international travelers, who tend to stay longer and spend more than U.S. tourists.
In June, for example, Louis Armstrong International Airport welcomed Germany’s Condor Airlines, which offers nonstop service between New Orleans and Frankfurt. It’s the first nonstop flight between New Orleans and Europe since the 1980s. Condor passengers arriving in Frankfurt have more than 120 connections throughout Europe and worldwide.
Meanwhile, construction resumed this summer on several improvements at Armstrong International, including an elevated roadway, a new controls building and a new pumping station. In addition, a new 30-gate terminal is on track to open in October 2018.
Further bolstering local tourism is next year’s scheduled opening of the Poland Avenue cruise terminal. The facility will give New Orleans a third terminal for cruise ships and extra momentum in the city’s efforts to attract new cruise lines. The Norwegian Cruise Line has already announced plans to introduce the Norwegian Pearl, which has been described as slightly bigger than the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship home-ported in New Orleans seasonally.
Built in 2006, the Norwegian Pearl has accommodations for just under 2,400 passengers compared to about 2,300 for the Norwegian Dawn. The Pearl will cruise from New Orleans to the western Caribbean, starting in November 2017.
And the owners of the Steamboat Natchez recently bought a second paddlewheel-style vessel to travel the Mississippi River. The new boat will undergo renovations and join the Natchez to meet increasing demand among tourists.