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Girls Trip, which hit theaters July 2017, has spurred a new wave of women’s group travel to New Orleans, and these groups are booking their trips earlier than usual.
This year, 510,000 people came to New Orleans during Essence Festival in early July, a cornerstone of the film, up 8.5 percent from 2017, according to the New Orleans tourism board. For the first time, the festival booked sold-out crowds for all three nights of its concert series at the Superdome.
The Hyatt Regency New Orleans saw customers booking earlier this year, specifically in preparation for the festival. “We’ve seen a huge impact in reservations during Essence since the filming of Girls Trip. In fact, this was the first year that we’ve sold out since 2014,” said Aaliyah Shareef, a spokesperson at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.
The hotel and its restaurant 8 Block Kitchen & Bar were featured in several scenes, and the hotel is only a two-minute walk from the Superdome.
“We believe the movie helped revive girls trips in general to New Orleans — from all over,” said Shareef. “Although we’ve always seen a large amount of bachelorette parties, there’s been an uptick of small and large groups of friends.”
Harrah’s New Orleans, also featured in the film, saw its visitation rise 35 percent during Essence Festival weekend in 2018, when compared to 2017.
Girls Trip also sparked economic opportunity for long- and short-term rentals, and even real estate, according to Shareef. “One thing I deem immeasurable is the buzz the A-list celebrities walking around the city cause,” she said. “Filming in New Orleans has brought in producers and actors from all over, and a lot of them are looking at purchasing homes in the area just based on the fact that New Orleans has transformed into their getaway.”
An all-black female cast — including Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish — hadn’t previously dominated the box office this way, and the film made $140.9 million globally. To compare that to another female-led blockbuster, Ocean’s 8 made $135 million globally. “When you have an all-star cast with that power and influence in a movie together, and set the backdrop in New Orleans, it’s bound to have impact,” said Gordon Sipple, vice president of marketing at Harrah’s New Orleans.
Sipple saw the impact immediately on the festival’s opening day. After assisting 33 women from Georgia in matching green shirts, he noticed the abundance of female groups and mother-daughter duos. “I would say every group of people in this entire city came down with a group of friends and had their group identifier shirts, their Posse shirts. It was really cool to see,” he said, referring to the “Flossy Posse” comprised of the film’s four leading women.
The impact of Girls Trip can be felt even before travelers arrive. Groups of women at the Dallas/Fort Worth and New Orleans airports this year wore color-coordinated shirts adorned with their own crew names. Restaurants and bars featured in the film were packed throughout the festival, and hotels were sold out, including Harrah’s New Orleans and the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, both featured in the film.
In 2019, visitation could easily continue to rise on the coattails of Girls Trip, and Essence Festival will celebrate its landmark 25th anniversary.