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Direct Flights Will Make New Orleans “next big thing” (featuring AlliedPRA’s Jeff O’Hara)

Pictured: AlliedPRA’s Jeffrey O’Hara and Katie Poche (front right) along with GMC’s Susan Scales (centre back) hosted a small group of event planners to promote New Orleans

New Orleans is tipped to become the ‘next big thing’ for incentives with the introduction of direct British Airways flights from next month.

AlliedPRA president for New Orleans Jeffrey O’Hara told a select group of event planners last night that he expected interest to soar for corporate groups from the UK, particularly incentives.

He said: “We’ve been working in the UK for many years; most of our business has been with congresses and conventions. Big groups will come over but they’ve had to come because of that particular event. I’ve said before, if we had direct flights it will open up the incentive or meetings market. And we think that’s what will happen.

“New Orleans has got a reputation as a great party city. From an incentives point of view, people are going to gravitate towards that. We’ll build itineraries around that. There’s also opportunities to take people on airboats and explore the local flora and fauna in the swamp. Then there’s also the history of New Orleans, and the food and drinks it is famous for; there are so many ideas for a completely different experience.”

O’Hara and his colleague Katie Poche, who operate the AlliedPRA franchise in their native New Orleans, have been visiting the UK to promote the destination to UK planners. They held a dinner in partnership with their UK sales office GMC, at Christopher’s restaurant in Covent Garden on Tuesday night.

British Airways announced late last year that it would operate flights from the UK to New Orleans four times a week starting from 27 March. Flight time will be about nine hours.

Adding Value deputy MD Cassander van Eerd said the new flights would ‘open up’ that corner of the American coast.

“We’ve looked at it before there was even talk of direct flights and it was a complete non-starter. We would have had to fly in the group via Atlanta and it was just too long,” van Eerd said.

“But New Orleans speaks to us. We have a feel of what it could be and this is exciting.”

Susan Scales, CEO of GMC, added: “It’s like we’ve found a new part of the states that no-one knew about before. It’s got such strong icons that everyone can envision; the Mississippi, the paddleboats, the beautiful Southern Belle mansions and the food – a must.”