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New Orleans Rising


Is the Big Easy staging a comeback? Many signs point to yes. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Market- Watch, the New Orleans region was the most improved mar- ket for business in the United States last year, rising 44 positions from No. 77 in 2010 to No. 33 in 2011. Big-time sporting events are lining up to come to the destination as well. New Orleans will host the NCAA Final Four this spring, SuperBowl XLVII next February, and the NCAA Women’s Final Four next spring. New meeting space, hotels, and restaurants are rolling


out in anticipation of the flurry of visitors. The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will complete a $50-mil- lion renovation by year’s end, turning Hall A into a 60,000- square-foot ballroom — the largest in the city. The revamp will also include a new, 4,660-square-foot junior ballroom, a 3,420-square-foot rooftop terrace, a 980-square-foot indoor balcony, and a 4,700-square-foot executive club lounge. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, in the midst of a $300-million modernization project, completed a


$27-million expansion of Concourse D last year. New and renovated hotels are popping up downtown, from boutique properties like the new, 166-room Saint Hotel and 102-room Hotel Mazarin, to big-name brands like the 1,193-room Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which reopened last year after a $275-million renovation. “Our plan is to make sure there are always new things for


attendees and exhibitors to enjoy,” said Nikki Moon, the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau’s vice president of convention sales. “There’s new restaurants opening almost weekly, and we work hand in hand with the [convention] center to make sure every meeting is always a fresh new meeting.”


spanned a much broader range than just Louisiana-centric dis- asters,” said Jeb Brian Lacey, CEM, emergency management coordinator for theVictoria (Texas) Office of EmergencyMan- agement, who spoke on a panel about public/private partner- ships. “One day I sat down at lunch and had a 30-minute conversation with an emergency manager from Amsterdam. ... I got [the] perspective of someone that I otherwise would have never had the opportunity to interface with. That’s one of the major benefits of having a conference that draws from not only all over the country, but all over the world.” That’s not to say that New Orleans’ experience with cata-


strophic events—Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 BP oil spill being the most recent and memorable—didn’t play a promi- nent role at IDCE2012. Often during the show, Katrina served as a case study, with attendees focusing on the lessons that expe- rience offered other destinations when dealing with tornados, snowstorms, floods, and other natural disasters. “The topics weren’t necessarily about the oil spill or Katrina,” Mouton said, “they were about how those lessons are applied globally.” For example, a group from Australia spoke about their experience shadowing officials with Louisiana’s Governor’s Office ofHomeland Security&Emergency Preparedness, and how they implemented what they learned during the flood- ing that struck Queensland in late 2010 and early 2011. “When the floods hit last year, they had a remarkable miti- gation in the loss of life because of what they implemented,” Mouton said. “This is one of the reasons why New Orleans is such a great hub for this show.”


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Looking to the Future Show organizers estimate that the number of exhibitors at IDCE will grow by 10 to 15 percent next year, and that inter- national attendance will jump by 10 to 12 percent. Tweaks to IDCE2013 includethepossibility of adding pre- and post- con tours of local areas affected by Katrina and the oil spill, as well as separating education sessions into tracks for a more streamlined conference experience. But what madeIDCE2012 so successful—big-namespeak-


ers and a focus on public/private partnerships—will still be a major focus in 2013 and in future shows. “The overall goal of having this event was looking at the


industry and asking what aresomeof thelargest problems,” Mouton said. “What we saw are communication problems between different levels of government and the private sec- tor. Our goal was to create a forum to bring them together for a dialogue on lessons learned—as well as to indulge in for- ward thinking in terms of policies and procedures that would benefit the industry by mitigating loss in future disasters.” Lacey added:“You haveto haveall partners availableto bring


their resources and expertise.There’s an industry phrase—plan- ning shouldn’t bedonein a vacuum, and success isn’t found in a silo.” 


 Contributing Editor Jennifer N. Dienst is a freelance writer based in Charleston, S.C.


pcmaconvene April 2012 71


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