Area CVBs set up temporary offices, post-Katrina

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Tourism promotion agencies in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were already beginning to regroup last week, even as the task of assessing the physical and economic damage of the storm was just beginning.

For New Orleans, the Convention and Visitors Bureau was expected to have an alternate office open in Baton Rouge as early as this week for what it described as skeletal operations to work with convention and meetings clients and tour operators and leisure industry professionals.

For New Orleans and other destinations in the region, however, the focus will necessarily be on the long term.

According to Stephen Richer, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tourism assets on Mississippis Gulf Coast range from shattered to gone and will take months and months of work to rebuild.

Richer, who evacuated his home in Gulfport, Miss., before the storm, knows that on his return, there will be no office (the building was destroyed in our tsunami), and that the communitys first priorities will necessarily be restoring the necessities of life for area residents.

For that reason, he is urging industry colleagues to continbute to relief efforts.

Later, he said, we, meaning the tourism industry, will need help getting back on our feet.

His CVB promotes 13 casinos, two dozen golf courses, 100-plus pleasure boats, dozens of attractions and hundreds of restaurants, and the reports are very devastating.

Many historic houses suffered significant damage or are a total loss, Richer said, including the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, which is a pile of rubble.

Numerous restaurants were destroyed; the well-known Mary Mahoneys in Biloxi (which made an appearance in a few John Grisham novels) is a mere frame now, Richer said.

Similarly, the casinos sustained millions to billions in damage, but Richer is hopeful the strong people of the Gulf Coast will be able to rebuild it all, from the historic properties to the casinos.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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