I love my job,” says Mark Romig at the conclusion of our interview. And I think, why not? Romig promotes the city of New Orleans. But for those of you who think tourism is something that drives itself – I’m sure you’re pondering, “How hard is it to promote New Orleans?” – think again. Romig, President and CEO of New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation for a little over 18 months, is one of the major players, along with the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau (NOCVB), ensuring that the city is portrayed accurately in the media – whether it be via traditional news outlets (print, TV, radio) or social media. This isn’t only important for tourism, but for the city’s economic development, as both agencies are up against cities – such as Orlando – with more money and resources for promotion.
Romig’s love for the city comes naturally: born and raised here; his education – grammar school through college – was in New Orleans; his father’s family has been in the city for three generations; and his mother’s for five generations. Except for three years when he worked in Washington, D.C. as Staff Assistant to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elizabeth H. Dole and on her husband Bob Dole’s presidential campaign, his career has been in New Orleans. His curriculam vitae is extensive, filled with milestones for the city.
Some of his latest volunteer endeavors have been working on the Idea Village’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week; the 2012 Bicentennial of War of 1812 (OpSail2012, better known as “Fleet Week”) and co-chair of the Media and Public Relations Committee for 2013 Super Bowl ILVII Host Committee.
He is also on the board for NO/AIDS Task Force, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and Xavier University; while he has served on the board for Fore!Kids Foundation, Sugar Bowl committee and Project Lazarus, to name a few.
Romig is an aficionado of Mardi Gras, as well as a die-hard New Orleans Saints fan (his father has been the official game announcer for 44 years), so be sure to say “hi” if you see him at Saints game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Ubiquitous? Yes, as it’s part of his charm and success – Romig believes in New Orleans: in its culture, people, businesses and organizations – making him the consummate ambassador for the city.
What does the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing do? NOTMC is the city’s official travel and leisure promotion agency. We speak to the millions of potential tourists that can come to the city, and hope that they do so. The NOTMC promotes the city as a destination, and the purpose of this [NOTMC] is as an economic development agency. The mission is building a better economy through more visitation: that includes visitor spending, which means the city sees more tax dollars coming into its coffers, allowing it to provide more services and create more jobs.
We have a very robust website (NewOrleansOnline.Com), as well as GoNola.Com.
New this year is our visitor app called GoNola, which you can download via Android or iPhone. It’s an exciting way to have information on hand for the tourist who wants to plan their visit prior to arrival. It’s also good for locals, as it has very comprehensive listings of restaurants and events. It’s another way to make it easy for the consumer to understand New Orleans and hopefully choose us over another destination.
How does the NOTMC complement the NOMCVB (New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau)? It’s a great relationship. We speak with one message, one voice for the industry. We now have one visitor guide, and are truly working in a manner that allows us to communicate on a regular basis. The NOTMC likes to say that we provide “air cover” for what convention bureau salespeople need for selling the city to the associations and trade shows – having our message out there branding, it allows them to tell the story of New Orleans with more punch.
What are some tourism goals for New Orleans? Our goal is to get from 8.75 visitors in 2011 to 13.7 million visitors by the city’s Tricentennial in ’18. What’s significant about that is, if we reach those numbers, we’ll see an additional $4 billion in visitor spending, 33,000 additional jobs added to the payroll and more tax dollars coming into city coffers in order to allow the city to expand services.
Of course, the goal is to do it responsibly. What that means is finding the resources to fix the “satisfiers”: For example, the French Quarter needing renovation of streets and sidewalks. Fortunately, that’s currently underway in some part now. Things like that have to happen to support visitation.
I think it’s important to know, particularly for our local citizens, that we recognize that we just can’t add 5 million visitors to the city without taking care of the infrastructure. And our goal is to work with the community to make that happen.
How do you get the word out about New Orleans? We build out a marketing plan, like we’re doing now with our new agency of record, Densu America, out of New York. We’ve hired a local account manager who’s from New Orleans; [we are] working with him every day. The marketing plan went to our board last month to be approved, then to the City Council and City of New Orleans, and it begins January 2013.
How has public relations changed since you started? It’s the use of social media. We’re finding that people are making their decisions based on what they’re seeing in social media. That’s where they are getting their information, sharing their information. It’s not to say that traditional media is not necessary.
In 1988, faxing a press release to a newsroom was the most efficient way of getting them information, besides a phone call. Now, it’s through Twitter, email … you didn’t have the 24/7 news cycle you see now.
In 1988, having a Rolodex was considered a tool. One thing that has changed, but I wish it hadn’t, is people don’t write notes by hand anymore. I wish that was something that would come back. That human touch we can never lose. It does get down to the basic model of communication: one-on-one, just like us now. And making sure it’s a two-way communication – that will never go out of style. However, how we’re doing it now is becoming more and more dependent on the online world.
True Confession: I was with Dad in the announcer booth at Tulane Sugar Bowl Stadium when he announced the then-NFL record setting field goal (63 yarder) by Tom Dempsey.
At a Glance
Name: Mark Collins Romig (Collins is his mother’s family name) Age: 56 Profession: President and CEO, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation; APR (Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America) Resides: Fontainebleau area Born/raised: New Orleans (Born at Hotel Dieu Hospital) Family: Mom and Dad (Janice and Jerry): David, Jay, Anne, Mary Beth and Ellen; 11 nieces and nephews; and Chester (Toy Manchester Terrier) Education: St. Dominic’s Grammar School; Brother Martin High School; bachelor of science, University of New Orleans (School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration) Favorite book: John Adams by David McCullough Favorite movie: Bringing Up Baby Favorite TV shows: “I Love Lucy,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Political Animals” and “True Blood.” Favorite restaurant: I’m trying to make my way through all of New Orleans’ great restaurants. Favorite food: Literally anything but liver. Favorite music/musicians: Beach Boys, Chicago and Louis Armstrong Favorite vacation spot: Anything with a beach. Grew up going to Pass Christian, Miss.; lately, it’s the Santa Rosa County area of Florida. Hobby: Landscaping, college football, reading political/historical biographies, movies and travel