New Orleans’s 2010 visitor numbers surpassed pre-Katrina levels for the first time since the devastating 2005 hurricane, latest figures show.

Numbers were up by 10.7% or 800,000 last year to 8.3 million over 2009 with expenditure rising by more than $1 billion to $5.3 billion. Domestic and international visitors spent $9.3 billion in the state of Louisiana in 2010.

New Orleans CVB & Louisiana Office of Tourism in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands sales director Jody Hanson said: “This is fantastic news and we want to thank our travel industry partners, tour operators and travel agents in our markets for their continued faith in New Orleans and Louisiana as a must-see destination in the USA. 

“The city continues to grow from strength to strength attracting visitors with its reputation for unrivalled music, cuisine, history and festivals.”

New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau president and chief executive Stephen Perry said: “Coming out of the strong economic downturn, and on top of the difficult perception challenges created by the BP oil spill, the city hosted multiple attendance record-breaking conventions, festivals, had strong leisure and transient results and ended the year as the number one fastest-growing destination in the country for hotel performance.

“The addition of 800,000 visitors gives the city tremendous momentum that we want to keep growing in the coming years.”

Holidaymakers spent an average of $569 per trip or $142 a day in New Orleans last year with more than three quarters visiting the city on vacation.

The remaining 22.3% of visitors surveyed were in New Orleans for a convention, association, trade show, corporate meeting or general business travel. Of these, almost half extended their stay for an average of two days.

The number of visitors aged 25-34 rose from 15.4% in 2009 to 18.4% last year.