Money is tight and people are scared to fly to some places, but you can hardly tell from the bookings for Tuesday's boozy street party known as Mardi Gras.
This year's bash may not match the 1990 benchmark celebration, which generated $480 million in spending around New Orleans and produced $54.4 million in local and state taxes.But hotels around New Orleans reported bookings of 91 percent, down from 97 percent occupancy last year, for the final four days of Carnival, which ends Tuesday with the big Mardi Gras bash. A day later, Ash Wednesday ushers in six weeks of Lenten repentance to this predominantly Roman Catholic city.
In the meantime, said Stuart Barash, president of Travel New Orleans, "The tourists are coming."
His company usually books 2,000 hotel rooms for Carnival and will fill them again this year, he said.
"There was very little activity until Super Bowl Sunday, and once that came and went and people saw that nothing happened they felt safe in coming to Mardi Gras," Barash said.
Overall, attendance could drop 10 percent because of the recession and the war, said Tim Ryan, director of the Division of Business and Economic Research at the University of New Orleans.
That would be significant but not earthshaking, he said.
About 91 percent of the 25,500 hotel rooms in New Orleans and its suburbs were booked the week before Mardi Gras, said Michael Tourniaire, president of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Motel Association.
Some hotels cut their rates or relaxed minimum-stay requirements to attract more business. But French Quarter hotels like the Royal Sonesta, where rooms start at $120 a night, were booked solid.