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There is something magical about New Orleans (NOLA), and this is never more apparent than during Mardi Gras, which has evolved from a Lenten precursor, to one of the most culturally rich and gratifyingly indulgent celebrations on Earth. Every spring, more than a million souls descend upon NOLA to join the celebration – giving hotels a reason to celebrate as well, as it demands the highest Average Daily Rate (ADR) of the year, a standard revenue measurement, as well as occupancy accordingly to the New Orleans CVB. Of note:

  • Mardi Gras consistently brings in the highest ADRs in downtown NOLA every year, averaging $100 to $200 more than other times of year, according to 2016 Expedia data. In 2016, this was followed by New Year’s Eve / Sugar Bowl, and Halloween / Voodoo Fest. Jazz Fest in April 2016 was bumped to fourth place on average ADR.
     
  • The highest occupancy for NOLA also falls with Mardi Gras. Running Friday through Fat Tuesday every year, occupancy peaks on Friday and Saturday with 95 and 98 percent occupancy for downtown hoteliers. (Source:  New Orleans CVB) 
    • Average occupancy for market as a whole is approximately 70 percent, with the low coming in hot and humid August at 55 percent.
       
  • This year, Mardi Gras Day falls on February 28 – February is usually a peak time in New Orleans, so there’s typically at least $100 premium over normal weekend ADR.
     

For hotel chains and independents alike, learning the nuances of maximizing your profits and customer experience during Mardi Gras is as nuanced as the city itself. Expedia’s NOLA market manager Kerrison Thorpe offers the following tips for hotels to get the most from these 5 days: 

  • Set expectations up front: From a security surcharge, to wristband requirements, let your guests know what to expect up front by adding special instructions to your bookings. This includes any expectations for road closures and hotel access related to parades. 
     
  • Talk to your guests in real time: For those many guests who many not read the fine print, reach out to your guests in advance with this information as well.
     
  • Offer additional value adds your audience wants: With a crowd that is bound to stay up late and imbibe plenty, late checkouts and/or complimentary drinks can go a long way. Hotel stand access for parades is another great way to differentiate yourself, to keep guests out of the crowds.
     
  • Don’t overly restrict: Most people aren’t coming for the full 5 days. If you require a 3- or 4-day stay, you’re limiting your property and reach.
     
  • Get your inventory out there early: Booking revenue window for Mardi Gras peaks at 65 days on average. Open your rates and availability early to avoid the scramble for occupancy, and the lower ADRs that can come with a shorter booking window.
     
  • Watch the market: See what your competitive set are doing in regards to rates and restrictions, and see how demand is progressing. Tools like Expedia’s Rev+ allow you to see these developments in real time, and make adjustments on the fly.
     

And a final tip? Find your uniqueness and own a piece of the fun. Royal Sonesta has taken to greasing the poles of their balconies so people can’t climb up them – and that turned the “greasing of the poles” into its own ceremonious event. And of course the Meeting of the Courts, the culmination of the festivities at the rex Ball shared by the downtown Sheraton and Marriott, has placed these hotels at the center of the festivities.

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