New Orleans Ranked #1 in USA in International Tourism Growth

Turns out that New Orleans’ recent vogue as a tourist destination isn’t confined to the 50 states.

The number of international tourists traveling to the Crescent City grew by more than one-third in 2015, federal statistics show — the biggest one-year increase of any major U.S. city.

That’s welcome news for local tourism industry officials, who have targeted that market segment for growth. International travelers tend to stay in the city longer — typically as long as 18 days — and spend more money during their visit than U.S. tourists. Already, New Orleans attracts about 675,000 international travelers annually.

Last year, visitors to New Orleans spent more than $7 billion, beating the previous year’s record, according to a recent University of New Orleans study.

New Orleans’ international travel grew 37 percent in 2015, according to figures released July 28 by the National Travel and Tourism Office, which is part of the United States Department of Commerce.

Louisiana — which had an estimated 36 percent increase — was tied with Washington state for No. 2, behind only Michigan, for overall growth in international visitors.

A record 77.5 million foreign travelers visited the U.S. in 2015, up 3 percent from a year earlier, according to the figures.

The top three cities most visited by overseas travelers in 2015 were New York City, Miami and Los Angeles, according to the report.

Behind New Orleans, Seattle and Dallas saw the next biggest increase in international travelers, the report said.

This year, New Orleans hosted the U.S. Travel Association’s annual trade show, IPW, which drew more than 6,000 attendees from 73 countries, including more than 1,300 international and domestic travel buyers.

“This is such exciting news for our state as we are working toward growing international visitation after an extremely successful IPW conference held in New Orleans in June,” Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Wednesday. “My goal is to see this number continue to increase steadily over the next several years, and that we will continue to market ourselves as an exciting destination for international visitors to explore and experience.”

The figures were compiled by polling international visitors who flew into the U.S. about their travel plans.

In May, more than 1 million visitors traveled through Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the largest single-month tally in the facility’s seven-decade history and the first time the facility served 1 million passengers within a month, officials said.

Richard Thompson, The New Orleans Advocate