A Ralphs Market king cake, one of the popular symbols of Mardi Gras season in New Orleans.

The Big Easy Beckons

The International Stroke Conference 2012, with 2,600 people expected, starts a big year for medical and EH&S meetings at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

A full slate of meetings and conferences are taking place in New Orleans this year, including a number of health and safety-related events. None of these will rival the crowds at Mardi Gras celebrations this month or the NCAA's men's basketball Final Four in late March, but they're welcome nonetheless to the city's hotels, restaurants, its big downtown casino, and residents and the city's coffers alike.

In short, the good times are rolling once again in New Orleans.

"We've been very lucky this past year, 2011 -- business has improved dramatically. As the economy has improved we've been very fortunate, and 2012 looks to be even better than 2011," Nikki Moon, vice president of sales at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Jan. 26. "With these great sporting events, that certainly jump starts everything. We're looking forward to the Final Four, and then we have the [2013] Super Bowl and the women's Final Four. We are on a roll."

The International Stroke Conference 2012 taking place Feb. 1-3 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, with 2,600 people expected to attend, starts a big year for medical meetings there. The American College of Physicians' Internal Medicine 2012 and the American Academy of Neurology will each bring more than 10,000 people to the center in April 2012, and some 6,000 people will be in town for an oncology nursing meeting in May.

EH&S-related meetings early in the year include an NFPA Training Seminar Week, which took place Jan. 22-26; the International Window Cleaning Association's Education Forum & Showcase meeting Feb. 2-4; and The Rental Show Feb. 5-8, where about 9,500 attendees will network and hear presentations –- if they registered in time –- about power generators, scaffolding, construction tools, and many other topics. The Water Environment Federation's annual conference returns Sept. 29-Oct. 3, with 18,000 people expected at that WEFTEC 2012 event.

"I think the thing that keeps these groups coming back is that there are so many things to do. We keep adding new restaurants," Moon said. "We've got 50 percent more restaurants than we had in 2005; we've got over 1,200 restaurants. The hotels keep putting money back into them, they're absolutely beautiful. Hyatt just reopened in October and it's stunning."

The city has 38,000 hotel rooms, she said, adding that number of rooms is sufficient for the Super Bowl, an NCAA men's basketball Final Four, or CTIA—The Wireless Association, which is bringing 40,000 people to town in May 2012 for its meeting at the Morial.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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