The Big Easy has found recovery not so
easy since Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans in August
2005. But local officials say that a resilient New Orleans is back
in the tourism business despite lingering infrastructure damage and
"New Orleans the
destination is in great shape and the New Orleans experience is
very much alive, and in some ways even better," said Mary Beth
Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and
Visitors Bureau. "We've proven with a number of big events and
conventions that we are definitely ready, willing and able to
welcome both leisure visitors and large conventions."
Gearing up to
welcome visitors to Mardi Gras celebrations in February and the New
Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April, the city started the
year with college football's Sugar Bowl.
televised Sugar Bowl has shown that people are here, loving life
and working hard to get our city back in order," she
Not all the news
has been as good. New Orleans still struggles to attract
leisure visitor is tough because the mass media are having a field
day with the city, focusing on any bad news story they can get
their hands on and magnifying it out of proportion."
The CVB has just
$8 million, out of a total $28.5 million awarded by federal and
state officials to the Louisiana Office of Tourism, to counter bad
news with positive publicity, marketing and advertising
nearly enough, especially when our competitors are spending four
times as much to promote destinations that are 100% intact," said
Still, Romig said
that the CVB was planning to launch an "aggressive" new marketing
initiative in January.
officials plan to ask for additional state funding to finish fixing
infrastructure in the French Quarter, which Romig called "the most
important jewel in our crown."
More rooms at the inns
attracted are going to need a place to stay. Nearly 30,000 of the
city's 38,000 hotel rooms are open. Harrah's New Orleans opened a
27-story hotel tower with 450 rooms in September. The Ritz-Carlton
and the Chateau Sonesta reopened last month after extensive
renovations. The Hotel Monaco will reopen as a Hilton during this
year's Mardi Gras.
is the most recent property to reopen, and it's better than ever,"
said Romig. "And the historic Hotel Monteleone in the French
Quarter went through a major renovation it had on the books to do
in the long-term anyway."
Regency, due to reopen after a complete overhaul by early 2008, and
the Fairmont, closed indefinitely, are the only two "big-ticket"
hotels in New Orleans that have not reopened.
All told, 90
downtown properties were open for business as of December,
according to the CVB.
And there's more
good news. Except for the lakefront and the St. Charles Avenue
streetcar line, most of the city's major visitor
attractions are open, including the Audubon Nature Institute, Cafe
du Monde, Mardi Gras World, carriage rides in the French Quarter
and riverboats Steamboat Natchez and Creole Queen.
museums, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the National
World War II Museum and the Lousiana Children's Museum, are open,
According to the
Louisiana Restaurant Association, about 700 restaurants are open in
all of Orleans Parish, which includes the French Quarter, downtown,
uptown and the Warehouse Arts and Garden districts.
The city's cruise
port is also busy, posting its busiest month ever in
good, but we need to continue to prove to the cruise industry that
we can fill ships, and that's all tied in with attracting that
leisure traveler back to the city," said Romig.
anticipated that Majestic America Line would soon announce the
return of its American Queen and Delta Queen vessels to New
"They are for a
more of a mature or senior citizen passenger who wants a riverboat
experience on a theme-type trip, and they come to New Orleans for
that from far and wide," said Romig.
Laissez les bons temps
One thing that's
certain is that Mardi Gras is back in business. While some
questioned the city's decision to host the traditional parades and
accompanying festivities last winter in the wake of Katrina, this
year there are no such qualms.
"Mardi Gras is
not just about a party, it's about business," said Romig. "It was a
good business decision to have it last year and to highlight all it
means to New Orleans' traditions. The question this year is whether
to make all the parades march on what's called the 'uptown route',
" said Romig.
The mayor and the
city's police department, smaller in these post-Katrina days, are
both strongly against letting parades "roll" in outlying
neighborhoods that are still recovering from Katrina.
added another day to the parade schedule, making for eight days of
parades altogether. Although the season officially began Jan. 6, on
the holiday known as Epiphany, or Kings Day, most parades are held
over the eight days prior to Mardi Gras, which falls on Feb.
To contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send
e-mail to [email protected].