New Orleans kicked-off a week-long celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week on Monday. Industry members rallied at the House of Blues for a New Orleans-style celebration including a brass band, aerial dancers and Mardi Gras Indians. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, led the crowd and proclaimed the power of tourism to the local economy.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of the Crescent City and our biggest economic driver. Money generated from tourism supports vital city services, such as education, infrastructure improvements, safety and other services that improve the overall quality of life for the local community,” said Perry.

“Because of the millions of visitors who travel to New Orleans, we can support the amenities and attractions of a city with a much bigger population, which all locals benefit from. Tourism fills the seats at our world-class restaurants and jazz clubs, and keeps attendance numbers high for our museums and hundreds of festivals. The tax dollars generated from tourism allows us to reinvest back into our community and build a brighter, stronger tomorrow as we march forward to the city’s 300th birthday in 2018.”

Following the rally, guests second-lined to the Sheraton New Orleans for a luncheon keynoted by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne to tout the tourism industry and its record-setting economic impact on the state.

“For visitors, New Orleans is the gateway to Louisiana. Tourists spent more than $11 billion in our state last year resulting in $836 million in tax revenue,” Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said in a prepared statement. “Tourism and hospitality was Louisiana’s fastest growing job sector in 2014 with 223,000 Louisianians employed in the industry. I take this industry seriously because it creates jobs for our citizens and a steady income for Louisiana that residents don’t have to provide.”

New Orleans’ travel rally and luncheon are part of the U.S. Travel Association’s 32nd annual National Travel and Tourism Week, which communities across America celebrate each year to shine a light on what travel means to jobs, economic growth and personal well-being.

Across the U.S. travel contributes: $2.1 trillion in economic output and $927.9 billion in direct travel-related spending in the U.S. by domestic and international travelers in 2014; $141.5 billion generated in federal, state and local tax revenues in 2014; and 15 million American jobs—8 million direct tourism jobs and 7 million indirect and induced jobs—good jobs with good pay that cannot be outsourced

The local theme for this year’s National Travel and Tourism Week events is New Orleans Will, a tourism advocacy campaign facilitated by the New Orleans CVB to educate locals on the importance of the traveler economy. Travel and tourism is New Orleans’ largest industry employing a diverse workforce, from hotel and restaurant employees, to creative jobs in culinary, music, arts and entertainment.

By the numbers, New Orleans tourism industry supports: $6.81 billion in visitor spending pumped directly into the local economy; 80,000 direct and indirect jobs, the city’s largest industry workforce; and 9.52 million annual visitors