New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) has named the UK travel trade as a key driver in the city’s recent tourism recovery. “If it wasn’t for the UK travel trade, the industry would not be back to how it is,” CVB Vice President for Tourism Kim Priez told Travel Daily. “New Orleans has always been a city to put a face in the UK industry and although some industries think it is dying down, we have always felt we should increase our efforts.” She revealed that although hotel bookings in the next three to six months are down, the UK market showed a different story. “People don’t want to take the chance when there is uncertainty around the oil spill and holidays are expensive,” explained Priez. “But tour operators in the UK say sales are up over the last year. This may just be part of the recovery, but it is still positive.” She added that the city was now more appreciative of its tourism industry following a tough battle after the Katrina hurricane in 2005. “Tourism is the biggest industry in New Orleans and we know how important it is because we lost it [after Katrina],” said Priez. However with the hurricane far behind them and the oil spill two hours away from the city, New Orleans has seen an influx of UK travellers. “We enjoyed 85,000 UK visitors in the last year, which outperformed the German market and has made the UK our second biggest market after Canada,” said Priez. “We are a small city so typically a good year is eight million visitors and 10% of these are international.” She also revealed that Brits spent ‘very well’, particularly on the 24-hour nightlife, which (in the US) is only matched by Las Vegas. Priez admitted she was worried about the fall in hotel bookings for this year but overall the city was optimistic. “Some people are getting over the fatigue [of the oil spill news] and some may decide to go next year, that’s our fear,” she said. “But we finally feel we are back and we are optimistic. We are up to 60% of sales compared to 2005 and this is a figure which has been calculated from our travel trade stories.” Hotel occupancy has also been helped by the cruise market, as Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have both confirmed New Orleans as a port for 2011. “A lot of people combine cruises with an overnight stay, which boosts the industry,” confirmed Priez.