Having hosted two major association conventions in the last two months, New Orleans is starting to regain its stride as a convention destination. Yet, despite the successes, the city's convention and visitors bureau is still dealing with cancellations and the perception that the city is unsafe for meetings.
In March, Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association cancelled its November 2009 convention at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. According to an article in The Times-Picayune, the association cited the city's crime rate and its problems recovering from Hurricane Katrina as the reasons for canceling. Georgia Foley, executive director at the Elm Grove, Wis.-based association, had no comment on the matter.
National Ground Water Association is also considering canceling it 2009 meeting, but not over fears of crime, they say, but because the dates of the convention (December 18 and 19) are too close to Christmas, says Kelly Schultz, vice president, communications and public relations at the New Orleans Metropolitan CVB. No final decision has been made, however.
This bit of bad news comes right after the city successfully hosted two major conventions: the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society, which brought close to 25,000 delegates to the city in February, and the American College of Cardiology, which brought 30,000 people to New Orleans in March.
"HIMSS found the city of New Orleans ready to welcome all attendees," said Stephen Lieber, HIMSS president and chief executive officer, in a release. “We [HIMSS] have not heard a single complaint about not having enough cab drivers or enough people in the hotels or that the restaurants didn’t have enough help,” he said. “All of the things that we who live elsewhere have heard (about the city) we knew from the multiple trips we made here, that they simply weren’t true,” he added.
Schultz says “it is unfortunate that among so many successful meetings, some organizations have succumbed to rumors, inaccuracies and sensational media headlines.” The areas conventioneers go is as safe as any large American city and that the violent crime is occurring in areas outside the tourist area, she adds. The NOMCVB staff is hitting the road for a media blitz to New York, London, Paris, and Frankfurt “to showcase New Orleans culture and dispel myths about the visitor experience.”
Later this month, the city hosts 30,000 delegates from the Risk and Insurance Management Society.