by Lisa Grimaldi | March 01, 2006

Bonnie Boyd

 

Bonnie Boyd

When Fenton, Mo.-based incentive giant Maritz Inc. moved its global sales conference from its hometown of St. Louis to New Orleans this year, the company sent a clear signal to its clients and employees. “We will be able to show our internal people and other companies that New Orleans is alive and well and has not drifted off the map,” said Sandi Porter, Maritz’s director of industry relations.
    “We did our site inspection in January to make sure the decision was right,” Porter added. “We had no concerns about operating this meeting here, and in many ways, we think it will be more exciting than St. Louis,” where the annual event has been held for more than 10 years.
    Maritz isn’t alone in supporting the Big Easy. According to Kim Priez, vice president, tourism, at the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau, a number of incentive firms, including companies based in Europe and Mexico, have made commitments to promote New Orleans to clients.
    “We announced the Jazz and Heritage Festival, taking place April 28 to May 8, and we think that will rekindle interest from groups,” Priez said, adding, “We probably missed the spring season for incentives, but we hope we will start seeing inquiries for fall 2006 and spring 2007 programs soon.” 
    Bonnie Boyd, CMP, president of New Orleans-based destination management firm BBC: Bonnie Boyd & Co., reported that she is seeing business trickle back. 
    In February, Boyd’s company put on a sales meeting for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola, which had been involved in the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort. “The attendees had to qualify, so they not only wanted to come down and do community service projects here, but they wanted the reward aspect and to have fun,” she said. Boyd arranged a party in the bayou one night and had a crawfish boil in the French Quarter on another night. 
    Boyd has had a number of inquiries regarding combination meetings and incentives in New Orleans for the fall, but little interest in pure incentives, she said. “Those firms have to deal with their boards and winners, who would probably rather stay away until 2007,” she said.