Lauretthe McClellan shares news of her experience in New Orleans.
I recently attended the Hosts Global Forum in New Orleans – a network of 50 Global DMC’S, now recently represented by Nicola Chater in the UK, whom I’m sure many of you know. What an amazing destination for an Incentive group, Congress or Business conference! The City’s just buzzing – from the Jazz band welcome at the airport to the Mardi Gras street parade’s and vibrant French Quarter.
The local DMC – Hosts New Orleans and their partners, did an absolutely first-class job in putting on a varied, informative & fun programme for the 240 delegates from around the world. They really did showcase the very best of the City and pulled-off a spectacular and very memorable event.
From an Event Organisers point of view, it’s quite a compact City with the key attractions and entertainment walkable from the main hotels & only 30 mins transfer from Louis Armstrong Airport.  I flew United from Manchester via Newark. I Believe BA from Heathrow is the only direct carrier at the moment with 4 flights a week.The bed stock is very good, 23,000 hotel rooms within one mile of the Convention Centre which completed a $52m renovation in 2013 and has 232,827 square feet in meeting space for over a million delegates.
The Sheraton New Orleans, our host convention hotel for the Forum was located centrally on Canal Street, together with most of the key hotels with the New Orleans Marriott directly opposite and Hilton a 5 mins walk. They all work very well together for group splits and of similar, high quality standard. Literally across the road, you have the Historic French Quarter, home to a variety of bars on famous Bourbon Street & lovely Royale Street which runs parallel  with fine dining & antique shops.
In addition to all the large International chains, there’s a reasonable selection of smaller & boutique-types venues   – The W, Aloft and The Ace hotel has recently opened in the Warehouse district.  There’s also a good range of luxury brands – Ritz Carlton, Loews, Intercontinental, Omni etc..
Good offsite venues for private hire are in abundance from Blues & Jazz Clubs, Museums, high-end Restaurants to Historic Mansions once owned by cotton growers on famous Charles Avenue. I opted for the VIP city tour together with police escorts on Harley’s  and visited some 20 venues & hotels. However, THE event of the Forum had to be the closing Mardi Gras Street Party. Guests were met at the hotel by a 30 piece jazz band with performers in brightly coloured costumes and led over to Bourbon Street to a series of venues for a drinks reception & canapés, then onto a buffet Dinner, ending in a very lively bar for deserts & disco. It was an absolutely spectacular event and of course attracted a lot of attention from the tourists who were keen to tag-on to the parade through the City! If you have the budget and right group size then this one’s a must for a closing night.
Overall, New Orleans would work well for a group of any size as it has so much to offer –  the hotels are well-equipped to handle large Conventions and groups of 50, equally.  Although it’s very lively around the French Quarter, there are quieter areas of the City if your clients prefer and with so much hotel choice, can meet most budgets.
Here’s my top 10 tips  –  please do feel free to contact me if you would like any further information or contact Nicola, her details below.
1.  VIP City Tour with police escorts on Harley’s
2. Mardi Gras Street Party – although only works for larger groups
3. Private event at the Famous House of Blues or B.B Kings Blues Club – both can be taken over exclusively
4. Dine around in the French Quarter
5. Riverboat trip on the Steamboat Natchez down The Mississippi ***
6. Reception at the National World War II Museum
7. Swamp Tour ***
8. Cocktails in the Carousel Bar at the famous  Monteleone Hotel (repped by the Preferred Hotel Group, Tessa Whalley)
9. ‘The Dancing Man’ to wake your delegates up in the morning! (fabulous, fun gospel-group for a short ice-breaker)
10. Best Jazz Clubs on Frenchmen Street –  try The Spotted Cat Music Club
***   – denotes activities I didn’t personally take part in, however some of the group did & highly recommended
 Nicola Chater, Global Sales Ambassador, Hosts Global  – Tel: 0208 998 2667.