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How to keep them walkin’ to Noo Awlins

Sharon Litwin interviews Mark Romig in this week’s installment of “Notes from New Orleans” on WWNO radio.

Mark Romig

New Orleans is famous for having any number of dynastic families: Think Marsalis; think Landrieu. But recently it’s the Romig name that’s getting a higher profile, with the appointment of Mark Romig as the new Chief Executive Officer of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, as well as that of Mary Beth Romig, his sister, as Director of Public Relations and Special Projects in Mayor Landrieu’s administration.

Those of us who’ve been around for a while well remember Jerry Romig, their father, when he was Vice President of Programming at WDSU-TV. For years his was the voice that introduced debutantes at many a ball and, after more than 40 years, his is still the voice of the Saints in the Superdome.

While Mark still finds time to serve as Co-chair with his father of the Media and PR Committee for the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee, it’s his work with the NOTMC that’s capturing most of his time, and he loves it.

“I’m getting to finally really use my degree again,” he says with a grin. The degree, a bachelor of science in hotel, restaurant and tourist administration from the University of New Orleans, was put on hold for many years as the now 55-year-old went from being in charge of guest relations at the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair and helping to open the Hotel InterContinental, to working on national political campaigns, assisting clients with their public relation needs and even a stint in hospital administration.

But now it’s full circle back into the one industry that continues to be the most important to the economy of this city. It’s Romig’s job to market New Orleans to the outside world in order to sustain the thousands of hospitality jobs and grow the income visitors bring here. To do that, he needs to make sure they come here in droves.

“New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation is a non-profit economic development corporation,” Romig says. “We receive tax dollars – we get some from the hotel bed taxes and a large one comes from the Harrah’s land base casino and their hotel – and we use those dollars to promote this city to leisure travelers.”

Serious research goes into the decisions about where and how to market the city. And while promotion campaigns are sent out nationally and internationally, it is the “drive market,” those groups of cities close enough for visitors to drive themselves over easily or hop on a plane for a short ride that clearly is the most important.

Romig wants visitors to come back to the Crescent City over and over again. To do that there has to be a continuous series of new and different events to attract them, if the NOTMC is to meet its goal of 13.7 million annual visitors by 2018 — up more than 50 percent from current numbers.  Romig says he has no doubt that it’s going to happen, starting now.

“Two thousand and twelve is unprecedented,” he explains. “We have the BCS Bowl, Mardi Gras, the SEC Men’s Championship, the Final Four, the Bicentennial of Tremé, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star Spangled Banner/Navy Week, just to name a few. There’s French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest, and so many other festivals; there’s something different to do every week. Then in 2013, we have that little thing called the Super Bowl and the Women’s Final Four. You have to admit it’s really exciting.”

Sharon Litwin, president of NolaVie, writes about culture and community in New Orleans.


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