The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center will host its first ‘city-wide’ event on November 15 with the return of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Convention, the city’s largest convention since the start of this year. the coronavirus pandemic.
The convention – the largest international gathering of ophthalmologists – is expected to draw up to 14,000 attendees for four days of classes, science sessions and networking events, according to the Convention Center’s vice president of sales and marketing, Tim Hemphill.
Although attendance is down from initial expectations of 20,000 attendees, it will still be the largest conference since Hearth, Patio and Barbecue’s 12,000-person convention was held in March 2020. .
The convention center has suffered significant blows since COVID-19 effectively shut down the city. From the start of 2021 until July alone, the Convention Center suffered losses of more than $ 31 million.
Hurricane Ida, combined with the increase in cases triggered by the delta variant, added to the facility’s financial difficulties, causing 11 of the 34 events to be canceled from September to the end of the year. The storm also caused more than $ 1 million in damage to their facilities.
However, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s decision at the end of October to lift the mask’s mandate, and his signals that carnival is likely scheduled for next year, could breathe new life into the convention center and adjacent industries, including hotels, shops and restaurants.
The Convention Center will leave the mask and vaccination mandates at each individual convention, but it is currently hosting a conference from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, which has chosen to put both in place. The Convention Center will ensure that staff also comply with each event, officials said.
Hemphill said it was still a bit too early to predict if there would be a big increase in the number of return conventions in New Orleans next year, but he predicted that one of the biggest conferences of the city – the American Geophysical Union, to be held Dec. 13 – 17 – will exceed initial expectations of 20,000 participants.
Hemphill also says their initial estimates of 30% fewer people attending conventions in 2022 appear to be shrinking day by day.