‘Music is the heartbeat’ of all things Louisiana

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“The diverse bands, the jazz and blues, there’s no better place to find that than here in New Orleans,” said Ken Louis of Afton, Wis., while sipping a cold beer as a jazz band played in Jackson Square.

“It kind of greases the skids for Jazz Fest and all the other music festivals,” said Ron Ondechek Jr. of Denver, who called himself an avid fan of the city’s festivals. “There’s lots of art, lots of people, lots of music. It’s just a great place to relax.”

But the events are also big business.

“Festival season is a lot of fun and a big draw, but in terms of dollars, it is a major economic impact to the city,” said Kelly Schulz of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Visitors are here,” she said. “They’re staying in our hotels. They’re eating in our restaurants. They’re shopping in our stores. They’re supporting other businesses, too, that people might not think of — the bikes, the shuttles, people that rent scooters around the city. There are so many aspects to the tourism industry, and when you’ve got major festivals like that, it really benefits the entire city.”

More than 8 million people visit New Orleans annually, and music is the biggest draw after Mardi Gras, particularly for international visitors, Miss Schulz said. But there are many other attractions, including a vibrant restaurant scene, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and recently expanded World War II Museum. An increase in marketing dollars from BP to the city and state since the oil spill also have helped boost tourism in the past two years.

“The city,” Miss Schulz said, “is just really hot right now.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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