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.