NEW ORLEANS — As we quickly near the busiest time of Carnival, hotels and other businesses in the hospitality industry are expecting a major influx in visitors.
"Having Mardi Gras parades roll through the streets again this year is very significant," said Kelly Schulz, Senior VP for Communications with New Orleans and Company. "You really cannot underestimate the emotional, cultural and economic impact of this Mardi Gras."
According to Schulz, approximately one million people visit New Orleans during peak carnival season.
Right now, hotels are not seeing pre-pandemic Mari Gras bookings, but they are still expecting high occupancy.
"We've talked to hoteliers who are telling us their occupancy Mardi Gras weekend is in the 80 percent range," Schulz said.
NOPD is preparing for the influx, but with a smaller staff than in past years. They currently have 1,054 officers in a department built for 1,600, according to NOPD.
"They are going to be stretched thin. I'm confident they will be able to do it, but it will be a challenge," said former NOPD officer and current attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, Donovan Livaccari. "I think handling Mardi Gras is year after year, their time to shine. On the other hand, there aren’t enough of them."
He believes help from other agencies, like the state police, will be critical this year.
"It will be more important than it ever has been. We still need police officers to handle calls for service and some actually need to catch a few hours of sleep," Livaccari said.
Schulz does not believe the recent crime spike or NOPD shortage will deter visitors.
"I haven't heard that yet," she said. "Obviously crime is something that happens in every major city. We're very transparent with our visitors about when you come to New Orleans, please be mindful of your surroundings as you would in any major city."
Schulz and Livaccari encourage visitors and locals to stay in groups in well-lit areas and have a solid plan so this Mardi Gras will be a fun and safe one.
"We have a lot of faith in the NOPD and all they do to keep our residents and visitors safe especially at a time like Mardi Gras," Schulz said.