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Star Gazing Spurs Movie Tours in NOLA

May 26, 2011 Latest News

Star gazing spurs movie tours in NOLA

A husband-and-wife tour team could be the start of a new stream of business in Hollywood South.

POSTED: 08:36 AM Thursday, May 5, 2011

BY: Jennifer Larino, Staff Writer

On any given day, Jonathan and Michelle Ray can be found sitting in a white van with a group of strangers watching actor Jean-Claude Van Damme fend off a gang of street thugs on Frenchmen Street.

The passengers, ranging from Midwestern retirees to Finnish vacationers, nosh on popcorn and absorb the action. Soon the scene from the 1993 film “Hard Target,” set in New Orleans, cuts out from the small television screens attached to the seat backs in the Ray’s customized tour van. A few “oohs” and “aahs” escape as they look out the windows to see the same mismatched music club façades.

The Rays, owners of Original New Orleans Movie Tours and its only tour guides, relish these moments. “I like when they’re oohing and aahing because I know they’re enjoying it,” Jonathan Ray said. “You hear them behind me and they’re getting into it.”

In its first month of business, Original New Orleans Movie Tours has ushered dozens of tourists through local neighborhoods to the sites where iconic — and perhaps less so — moments in New Orleans film history were shot. Tourists pay $54 per person for the three-hour tour.

The business is one of the first in the city to cater to tourists interested in experiencing not just movie history but the movie itself. As live filming becomes more routine in New Orleans, the Rays expect to have some company.

City and tourism officials alike have called attention to the impact Hollywood film crews have in improving the city’s economy and its image. Since lawmakers established a state film tax credit in 2002, 139 films have been shot in New Orleans, according to the New Orleans Office of Film and Video.

Louisiana Economic Development estimates the movie industry has generated $1.48 billion in economic activity statewide.

Jennifer Day, director of communications and public relations for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said New Orleans images in film and on shows such as the HBO series “Treme” are now a key part of the bureau’s travel narrative. Recently, the bureau has directed crowds of travel writers interested in “Treme” to walking tours like one the New Orleans African American Museum organized this year.

But tourists overall, Day said, are increasingly interested in visiting the sites of movie scenes, glimpsing stars and running into live filming in New Orleans.

“The fact that we pretty much have something in production every day, that really ups the ante,” Day said.

The Rays, both hospitality industry workers, poured $50,000 into Original New Orleans Movie Tours after Jonathan Ray interned on several movie sets last spring. The tour, they say, offers a much-needed alternative to swamp and ghost tours. “We’re trying to change and add something because it’s been so stale in this city for so long,” Jonathan Ray said. “There’s been nothing new.”

Laura Mandala, managing director at Mandala Research in Alexandria, Va., has studied how and why people travel for more than a decade. She notes that thriving tourism markets offer “as wide an array of activities as you can and get (tourists) to stay longer and spend more.”

Film, Mandala said, has been a way to evolve tourism in New York and Los Angeles. Now other areas are following suit.

Mandala said movie-related tourism packs a particular punch. In a January survey of 1,500 travelers, Mandala Research found 23 percent responded that movies and television programs heavily influenced their travel decisions.

Mandala notes that travelers get juicy stories from movie-related tourism.

“And sharing those stories back home is an important part of why (people) travel,” she said.

Robert Florence, owner of Historic New Orleans Tours, says the influence of media on local tourist attractions isn’t new. Two decades ago, he said, there were no vampire tours.

“It started with two words: Anne Rice,” Florence said.

Florence said film history crops up throughout his historic tours. He only offers a movie tour on request but expects that to change in five years.

“By then (film) won’t just be incidental; it will be a reason for which people come to the city,” Florence said.

At Original New Orleans Film Tours, Jonathan Ray uses film industry contacts to locate live sets for his itinerary. In the Central Business District, the Rays stop and hand passengers a call sheet from a chase scene filmed there for “The Mechanic,” a 2009 action film.

“We actually try to give them a little insight as to what actually goes into the making of a movie,” Jonathan Ray said.

The Rays say they want to keep their tour small and worry about the impact larger movie tour groups could have on open movie sets in New Orleans. Even so, they couldn’t be happier about the outlook for their business.

“We are the third biggest filming destination in the U.S.,” Jonathan Ray said. “People are starting to figure that out.”

Jefferson Parish Hosts Hurricane Prep Rally

May 20, 2011 Latest News


Jefferson Parish President John Young is inviting the public to attend the 2011 Jefferson Parish Hurricane Prep Rally this Saturday, May 21, 2011 from 10am - 4pm at the Lafreniere Park Pavillion in Metairie. Admission is free.

President Young said, "Hurricane season begins June 1st, so now is the time to prepare. We will have many Jefferson Parish departments on hand to provide essential information on how to prepare your homes and families for hurricane season, evacuation and let you know how the parish is prepared to respond."

Some of the Jefferson Parish departments and agencies participating include the Jefferson Parish Emergency Operations Center Mobile Command Unit, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, Jefferson Parish Fire Departments, Louisiana State Police, HazMat Responders, Emergency Medical Services, City of Kenner Police and Fire Departments, Entergy, Jefferson Parish Drainage Department, Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, East Jefferson and West Jefferson Emergency Medical Services, and many more.

Live demonstrations will show the dangers of electrocution from downed power lines, the life-saving hands-on experience of how to escape a fire, an interactive scale- model of how our drainage system works and where all the water goes, and our first responders will display their impressive high-water and rescue vehicles.

Jefferson Parish personnel will offer citizens on-the-spot registration for the JPAlert Community Notification System and will assist business owners with the opportunity to pick-up their 2011 Re-Entry Placards for businesses returning to Jefferson Parish after evacuating.

Please join us for this important event and bring your family and friends. For additional information, contact the Jefferson Parish Public Information Office at (504) 736-6410.

An international city-wide meeting, a major convention and an annual festival generate nearly $40 million in economic impact for the city of New Orleans in just one week

May 19, 2011 Latest News

** MEDIA ADVISORY ** CONVENTION NOTICE ** Photo Opportunity **



New Orleans Tourism Industry Thrives:

An international city-wide meeting, a major convention and an annual festival generate nearly $40 million in economic impact for the city of New Orleans in just one week


May 19, 2011 - Kicking off this weekend, New Orleans welcomes the American Society of Microbiology’s (ASM) 111thGeneral Meeting and the Rotary International Convention, as well as the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). Between Saturday and May 29, more than 36,000 convention and leisure visitors will convene in the city of New Orleans, utilizing 48 hotels around the city and generating nearly $40 million in economic impact.

Just this week, ASM has an expected attendance of 9,000; Rotary is bringing in more than 19,000 attendees from more than 160 countries; and historically, NOWFE welcomes nearly 8,000 festival-goers every year. This week’s events not only support tourism, and the 70,000 hospitality workers employed in the city, but also contribute to the overall economic impact responsible for generating $5 billion in direct visitor spending every year, funding nearly 30 percent of the city’s annual operating budget maintaining the public school system, streetcar system and other city services, and financially backs the New Orleans Saints, Hornets, Superdome and Morial Convention Center.

New Orleans is a perfect backdrop to join together two large conventions and a well-known festival, combining leisure travelers and convention attendees in a city known for its internationality, hospitality and culture of giving. Rotary focuses on humanitarian and educational projects worldwide, including ongoing recovery efforts in the Gulf Region. Microbiologists contribute expertise of nature and generosity as they work with Bayou Rebirth on the cultivation of Neighborhood Nurseries. And, NOWFE gathers the finest wine and food connoisseurs around and educates a Creole city already known for its exceptional cuisine and specialized spirits.

Here are just some of the events going on next week:

American Society for Microbiology - May 21-24: ASM's 111th General Meeting, with an expected attendance of 9,000 attendees, will feature more than 3,000 individual scientific presentations spanning the breadth of microbiology. ASM has teamed up with Bayou Rebirth, a local non-profit organization whose mission is to restore and preserve ecological communities in Southern Louisiana, and will build Neighborhood Nurseries. ASM will sponsor their very own nursery, or rain water harvesting system, and will explain and display the progress and future of the Neighborhood Nurseries at the Community booth in Exhibit hall A-C at the Morial Convention Center.



Rotary International - May 21-25: The 2011 RI Convention, with more than 19,000 attendees from 160+ countries, is expected to inject $22 million into the local economy and many Rotarians will participate in local community service projects with groups such as Habitat for Humanity and the United Saints Recovery Project. Also, in an effort to raise money and awareness for Rotary’s effort to eradicate polio, more than 100 motorcyclists from across the country will ride into New Orleans arriving at the Morial Convention Center for a photo opportunity at approximately 11:30 a.m. Also supporting Rotary’s ongoing effort to raise $200 million for polio eradication is this year’s keynote speaker Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who will speak at the Plenary Session on Tuesday, May 24, at 4:30 p.m. in Halls E-F at the Morial Convention Center.



New Orleans Wine and Food Experience - May 24-29: NOWFE is a five day event in New Orleans that is nationally recognized as one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind and brings in more than 8,000 attendees. Started in 1991, NOWFE spotlights New Orleans’ legendary restaurants and features more than 175 wineries, 1,000 wines, dozens of international wine and food experts and continually raises more than $100,000 annually for local charities.  The event is packed with extraordinary wine and food seminars, wine dinners at some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants and one-of-a-kind wine tasting events. On Tuesday, May 24, the Ella Brennan Award Dinner honoring Chef Paul Prudhomme takes place at the JW Marriott ile de France Grand Ballroom. On Thursday, May 26, the Vinola Tasting featuring 40 wineries will take place at the Theatre at Harrah’s Casino from 2-5 p.m., and the Fourth Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-off will take place on Saturday, May 28 from 5-8:45 p.m. at the Foundry.




Rotary International: Wayne Hearn, cell: 714.412.4388,; Vivian Fiore, cell: 714.240.0482,; Ann Christian, 504.232.6361,; RI Convention press center, 504-670-7010

ASM: Jim Sliwa, 301-873-3129,; Garth Hogan, 301-814-0984,

NOWFE: Liz Goliwas, 504-583-5550,

New Orleans CVB: Tara Letort, 504-566-5019,; Jennifer Day, 773-909-2514,; Kelly Schulz, 504-421-0962,


Hurricane prep supplies free from state sales tax May 28 & 29

April 26, 2011 Latest News

BATON ROUGE – Save money while protecting your home and your family from hurricanes.

The 2011 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday takes place Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29.  During these two days, specified emergency supplies are exempt from the 4 percent state sales tax.

The sales tax exemption applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each of the following items:

•        Self-powered light sources, such as flashlights and candles

•        Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios, and weather-band radios

•        Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting

•        Ground anchor systems, straps or tie-down kits

•        Gas or diesel fuel tanks

•        Batteries, sizes AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt, or 9-volt (Automobile batteries and boat batteries are ineligible)

•        Cellular phone batteries and chargers

•        Non-electric food storage coolers

•        Portable generators

•        Storm shutter devices (Materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms)

•        Carbon monoxide detectors

•        “Blue Ice” (and similar re-usable cooling products)

The 2011 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday does not apply to items or supplies purchased at airports, public lodging establishments, hotels, convenience stores, or entertainment complexes.