New Orleans hotels also gain from South Florida Super Bowl

New Orleans hotels also gain from South Florida Super Bowl
February 5, 2010
By Doreen Hemlock
Sun Sentinel

On the surface, it seems New Orleans is filling up with visitors while South Florida is lagging this Super Bowl weekend.

Hoteliers in downtown New Orleans say they're nearly sold out for Saturday night, while Broward County's largest hotel, The Diplomat, and Miami's tony Fisher Island resort still advertise rooms available.

But look deeper, and the comparison is not that simple.

New Orleans hotels clearly are enjoying a surge from the city's team making its Super Bowl debut.

But South Florida hotels, with roughly triple the rooms of New Orleans, are gaining even more — luring not just Saints fans but many others. Hotel occupancy in the tri-county area will rise more than 20 percent this weekend from last year, double the increase in New Orleans. And while room rates skid in New Orleans, they'll jump more than 50 percent this weekend in South Florida to top $310 a night.

"That's the difference between being in the game and hosting the game," said Steve Swope, chief executive of Atlanta-based consulting firm Rubicon, which analyzes reservations at hotels.

Cities don't usually boast a jump in hotel business just from their teams playing in the Super Bowl. But New Orleans this year is different — with its unique party style, fans who have awaited a Super Bowl since the Saints started 44 years ago and, perhaps most vital, a special community spirit after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

"If the Saints win, it would be a buzz killer to be in Miami and not with everybody else in the French Quarter. That's where the pulse is," said John Keppel, a 38-year-old plumbing designer living in Louisville, Ky., who is traveling to his hometown of New Orleans with eight others this weekend.

Still, this weekend's gains for New Orleans pale next to the benefits of hosting a Super Bowl. Staging the event fills hotels citywide, not just downtown. And it brings big corporate money, said Mary Beth Romig of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. New Orleans will host the game again in 2013.

That explains why Louisiana won't promote their city over South Florida for this weekend. Radio ads running in more than a dozen cities from Florida to Louisiana suggest that Saints fans who can't make it to the Miami area consider New Orleans as a second choice.

Rubicon's Swope said people booking New Orleans hotels this weekend include travelers who were already headed to the city next week for the run-up to Mardi Gras and added on extra days to catch the Super Bowl excitement first.

"If the Saints win," said Swope, "New Orleans will be a zoo."

Doreen Hemlock can be reached at or 305-810-5009.

Copyright © 2010, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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