NEW YORK -- Mardi
Gras in New Orleans is the official reopening for tourism in the
Katrina-ravaged city, said Sandra Shilstone, president & CEO,
New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation.
Just as Mardi Gras
parades hit the streets, Harrahs New Orleans Casino will reopen --
on Feb. 17 -- and for that weekend (which is also Presidents Day
weekend), it will be hard to find a room, said Anthony Sanfilippo,
president, central division, Harrahs Entertainment.
In ordinary times,
Mardi Gras is a $1 billion business. It costs the city about $5
million but brings in $21 million in taxes, added Arthur Hardy,
publisher of the Mardi Gras Guide.
Theres no question
the city needs the money. Shilstone said, The key to recovery is
tourism, in a city where tourism is a $5.5 billion industry and
The city is ready,
too, she continued. The biggest problem is that most people think
it is still under water. The areas tourists love are high and dry,
and were spared major damage, though with some Katrina
Dean Andrews, vice
president, Orient-Express Hotels, reported about 27,000 of 38,000
total rooms in the city are available now. It is now a very
accessible destination ... though there is still a long road to
recovery. Orient-Express Windsor Court is fully operational -- and
donating rooms to volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.
Mayfield, whose father drowned in Katrinas flood waters, is the
citys official cultural ambassador. He said, The culture of New
Orleans was on life support, and it is not just New Orleans, its
the culture of the U.S. ... Not to rebuild would be
To contact the
reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].
additional details on this article in the Feb. 13 issue of Travel
Weekly with Dan Luzadders cover story for an in-depth look at the
recovery of New Orleans.