New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has helmed the city’s tourism renaissance, with the 2013 Super Bowl at its pinnacle. Though the boom shows no signs of stopping — NOLA’s calendar was highlighted by the NCAA Women’s Final Four in April and is headlined by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this weekend — Landrieu took a moment to share his thoughts on New Orleans’ cultural offerings.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is particularly rich in local musicians this year. Who are you looking forward to hearing?
The great thing about Jazz Fest is that there are so many great artists to choose from every day of the festival. If I was forced to pick one, I might have to say Trombone Shorty, Troy Andrews, who’ll be closing out the Acura Stage for the first time on the final Sunday [May 5]. Troy is a phenomenal talent who has been performing since he was a toddler, so it’s nice to see him get this honor — this is the stage the Neville Brothers closed out for years. Troy’s also accomplishing a lot in the community, including a horn giveaway in local schools that I’ve been fortunate to work on with him.
It’s been a banner year for New Orleans tourism overall, from the Super Bowl to Women’s Final Four. To what do you attribute the record number of major events hosted in the city?
Over the last 18 months, it’s been one big event after the other — the 2012 BCS championship, the 2012 Men’s Final Four, Mardi Gras, the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the New Orleans Bowl, Mardi Gras, Essence Fest — the list goes on and on. I think it comes down to the fact that we’re one of the world’s most culturally rich and iconic destinations, and no one handles big events like we do. People want to come here anyway, and the events are lagniappe.
And as more lagniappe, you and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are hosting the World Cultural Economic Forum in early May. What are some of the cultural economic drivers you’re looking forward to showcasing?
One of the things we want to highlight with WCEF is the role of culture as an economic and social force that drives the creation of vibrant cities. Culture also equals jobs. In New Orleans, the tourism industry and cultural economy employ some 100,000 people, so we want to showcase the ways cities can cultivate culture to support job growth and spur economic development. It’s fitting that the conference takes place between the two weekends of Jazz Fest, one of our biggest economic events where the rich cultural traditions of New Orleans take center stage.
What do you hope our Forbes Travel readers take home from their visits here?
New Orleans is a great story of recovery, redemption and resilience. Seven years ago, the city was 80 percent underwater and at the bottom of a lot of people’s lists. Today, we’re at the top of a lot of lists that matter thanks to the strength and spirit of the people here who love this city unconditionally. So, I hope all visitors see that and come to love the city as much as we do.
Photos Courtesy of iStock-Drnadig and Mitch Landrieu