New Orleans hotels near 90% capacity for Essence Fest, 4th of July weekend

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — Even with rain and clouds swirling around the New Orleans metro area, Essence Festival attendees are focused on the next four days filled with concerts, seminars and entertainment.

“(It was) a really bad experience because of the weather,” said New York City resident Melissa Beaujour. “We got delayed in Baton Rouge and then came back and after that it was good.”

The melancholy weather didn’t stop visitors from feeling something they haven’t felt since 2019.

“I can already feel the excitement and culture of Essence at the airport,” said Houston resident Gabrielle Profit. “Everybody’s like ‘Are you here for Essence? Are you here for Essence?

It’s the first in-person Essence Fest in two years and New Orleans & Co. officials expect out-of-town crowds to be large.

Right now, their data shows that hotel occupancy for the weekend could be near or above 90%. Forecast daily occupancy among the 16 hotels in the survey shows 73% occupancy on Thursday, 91% occupancy on Friday, 93% on Saturday and 80% on Sunday.

“We’re all here to enjoy the culture, the food and the vibe,” said New York resident Chyanna Lundi.

The festival expects tens of thousands of visitors for one of the largest celebrations of black art and culture in the country. But until it all kicks off, people say they’re enjoying the city.

“We want to visit small businesses and invest our money in small businesses,” said Tampa resident Karita Lee. “We are not looking for business ventures.”

Many visitors say there’s more than enough to do while waiting for the big names to hit the Superdome stage.

After: Essence Fest returns to New Orleans to celebrate black music and culture

Nicki Minaj is headlining Friday night, Janet Jackson will take the stage on Saturday and New Edition will perform on Sunday.

Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 Essence Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, July 8, 2018, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)(Amy Harris | Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

“I can’t wait to see Janet Jackson’s performance. Who doesn’t want to see Janet? said Beaujour.

And while there’s a lot of attention on Essence Fest’s entertainment, people are also looking forward to the signs and the camaraderie.

“Whatever they have to do, I will do it. The king must be seen,” said Atlanta resident Alvin Farmer.

Essence Festival will host a free exhibit at the Morial Convention Center starting Friday. Visitors say the talks, meet and greets and seminars are what set Essence apart from other events.

“It’s important for people empowerment, dating, networking,” Profit said.

And after more than 25 years, the festival’s unique experiences continue to attract familiar faces and newcomers alike.

“Someone said maybe I’ll have more days behind me than ahead of me, so I’m trying to take advantage of those days ahead of me,” Farmer said.

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