Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mayor Landrieu requests $75 million from BP to promote area tourism

Posted By on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 4:20 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and other citywide business groups at Gallier Hall this morning to ask for a $75 million check from BP to market New Orleans as a tourism destination across the country.

click to enlarge Landrieu Seeks $75 million from BP for Tourism Marketing

Landrieu — joined by business leaders at Gallier Hall this morning.

The money will be used to augment the $5 million New Orleans advertising campaign which Gambit reported on yesterday.

The $75 million tourism ask precedes a broad platform press conference scheduled at the CVB this afternoon to include business and political leaders from across the state — responding to the BP disaster on a variety of policy and political levels. The theme of this afternoon's press conference is "Move Forward Now: the announcement of a four-pronged platform and call to action."

“There’s a very broad-based business coalition, and we’ll be urging action on a number of different issues,” says Greg Rusovich, chairman of the Business Council of New Orleans. “[The $75 million] is just one of several key issues. There’ll be a platform that this broad-based coalition will be calling for immediate action on.

“We’re talking about oil and gas, we’re talking about coastal restoration, the coastal wetlands, we’re talking about how to get a better command and control process, and the tourism front, and several others as well,” Rusovich continues — declining to be more specific about this afternoon's plan.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke met with a closed “town hall” meeting of industry leaders at the CVB last Thursday night, June 10. He listened to emotional testimony “from Vietnamese shrimpers, all the way up to the general managers from the biggest hotels in town,” says CVB President Steve Perry, adding that Locke “likes the idea” of the $75 million ask. Locke's office did not return a call for comment.

Perry says the role of the mayor’s office in lining up this morning's $75 million request has been pivotal.

“And this is what’s changed. From eight years here, we’ve never had a situation where all the business interests have come together, and the mayor’s office has been an actual true resource and supporter,” he says.

The request, on the mayor's letterhead, was addressed to BP headquarters at 1 St. James Square, London, though it's unclear whether it's actually been delivered there. In the letter, Landrieu writes:

The Gulf oil spill has the great potential to negatively impact the bit of progress we’ve made since Hurricane Katrina, and we must be prepared as a city to stand up for our tourism and hospitality industry.

Tourism is a perception-driven industry. Even after significant investment in marketing, as of April 2010, New Orleans had only returned to 75 percent of its pre-Katrina visitor levels.

Direct support to New Orleans from BP for this most recent recovery effort is without question an essential key to our success.

The $75 million ask has also been discussed with BP through “representatives of theirs,” Perry says, although he declined to put Gambit in touch with anyone from the company: “They’ve asked us not to do that.”

BP did not return a call for comment on this story.

“This is about a unified ask by every major corporation and the mayor of New Orleans,” Perry continues. “I think there’s a good chance that we’re going to get this money.”

—Matt Davis

Update, 12:20pm — scanned letter from Landrieu to Hayward after the jump.

click to enlarge Landrieu Letter to BP, page 1

click to enlarge Landrieu letter to BP, Page two.

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