5 Major Reasons Why New Orleans Tourism is Growing
After Hurricane Katrina, tourism in New Orleans took a huge hit. Now finally, 10 years later, The Big Easy is back on track.
The Resurrection of The Big Easy
New Orleans has always been considered one of the most interesting cities in America. Whether it's the Cajun food, the Jazz clubs or the world famous Mardi Gras festival, everyone has heard of this city. Sadly, the tourism industry here took a major dive after the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, but I for one am very happy to say that this great city is finally back to its former glory. According to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the number of people visiting The Crescent City each year now is just about as high as it was before Katrina. Let's explore how the resurrection of New Orleans has come about.
1. Relief Efforts
We cannot begin to discuss the revitalization and growth of New Orleans without giving credit to all of the people who worked so hard in the wake of Katrina and beyond to rebuild and restore the iconic city, helping provide relief to those who lost so much during the storm and building towards the return of tourism and the rebound of the economy.
From The American Red Cross to The Salvation Army, from Habitat For Humanity to The Jazz Foundation of America, and from Build Now to all the religious organizations that did everything they could to help the relief efforts, the city slowly but surely recovered from its trauma. Whether it was financial aid or physical, so many did their part to assist residents in picking up the pieces, figuratively and literally.
Without the efforts of these and so many other organizations and individuals, New Orleans would still be a broken down shell of a city. Whether you live in the state of Lousiana or not, these "superheroes" deserve recognition for their part in NOLA's rebirth.
2. From Rebuilding To Growth
Once the dust settled, the next question would naturally become: What next? How do we bring back life to a great city after it was all but destroyed? The number of people who worked to answer this question cannot even be listed here, but mention needs to be given to the "Bring New Orleans Back Commission", a committee created by former Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. Their job has been exactly as the name of the group suggests, to bring back New Orleans. A monumental task to be sure, but fortunately there was a lot of help from the above mentioned Relief agencies and the federal government.
Relief funds allowed so many businesses that might have closed their doors permanently after Katrina to stay open and renovate, despite the loss of population that naturally occurs after any considerable disaster. A large amount of residents may have left the city, but a majority of businesses were able to stay active, which gave the city a base from which to rebuild itself.
Now, 10 years later, the city is booming once again and bigger than ever. There were around 800 restaurants in NOLA before Katrina, now there are more than 1400. The French Quarter (New Orleans' most famous area) has been rebuilt, and there have been over 80,000 new jobs created in the hospitality sector alone with over 30,000 more in the works. New hotel chains are moving into the city such as Virgin and Ace Hotels, and in 2015 alone there have been 126 major festivals scheduled. All of this is according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.
With this kind of momentum, there's no doubt that New Orleans is back big time and will continue to grow even more in the future.
3. There's Always A Silver Lining
We've all heard the expression: "Time heals all wounds". While this is only partially true, there is a certain amount of readiness to move forward that comes organically with time. The aftermath of tragedy is no exception. True, the residents of New Orleans will never forget Katrina, or how hard it's been to rebuild their city and their lives in the years since, but at the same time the trepidation that may have kept so many tourists away from the city for so long has subsided with time.
The failure of the levee system in NOLA during the hurricane caused so much destruction, but in life the lesson is always live and learn. The city and state government have now had 10 years to improve these systems, and this is helping many to feel far more secure visiting the area than 8 or 9 years ago. And this is a very good thing for tourism.
Again, another positive to come out of a negative, is the population shift in New Orleans. True, less people live there now than before, but this has made so much more room for growth (see the previous entry about new businesses). Maybe the city won't quite be able to recover its full population, but more money from tourism will continue to improve the city for those living there and those visiting it.
When something is broken down, it's a loss. But with that loss comes the opportunity to rebuild and make it even bigger and better than it was before (One World Trade Center comes to mind). Because New Orleans was broken down, it has now been rebuilt, with something old, something new, and something for everyone. The history is still there, as well as all of the "shiny and new" establishments that will create new memories. As the headline of this section says, there's ALWAYS a silver lining.
4. Who Dat? Brees Dat! (Remember Dat?)
This may not be something that most people consider, but passionate sports fans (which is a very large number of people in this country) will understand full well that the New Orleans Saints football team played a huge part (however indirect it may have been) in bringing back the city of New Orleans.
Katrina was, in a word, demoralizing. All the practical elements of cleaning up, planning and rebuilding an entire city are massively important, but the mental and emotional factors simply cannot be denied either. Seeing a city you love ravaged by wind and water is downright depressing, and that lack of morale can keep residents AND visitors away.
In 2010, the Saints won the Superbowl by defeating the Indianapolis Colts (and it's never a small thing to defeat a team with the great Peyton Manning at the helm). This may seem to some like a minor thing, but its impact on the city cannot be denied. After the heartbreak of Katrina and 5 years of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the efforts to restore their beloved city, residents of New Orleans had something to be proud of. There's nothing quite as unifying for the people of any city than seeing one of their sports teams win a national championship and be proclaimed the best in the league. Whether we realize it or not, sports bring people together in a way that few other activities can accomplish, and this was no exception. People from New Orleans who don't even watch football could say: "Hey, our team won! Everybody's talking about us now!"
Now I'm no expert on Sociology (even though I did study it in college for a while), but it's pretty clear to me that if you look at the 5 years after Katrina, and then at the 5 years after the 2010 NFL Playoffs, you'll see a world of difference. The morale boost that Drew Brees and the Saints brought to the city of New Orleans was a huge contributor to the rebirth of the city's tourism being kicked into high gear.
5. Events, Events, Events.
One of the biggest reasons for people to travel to ANY destination, are major annual events and festivals, and New Orleans has those in abundance. Obviously we've all heard of Mardi Gras, in fact it's what NOLA is most famous for. However, there are so many other reasons for people to make a yearly pilgrimage to The Crescent City. From the Jazz & Heritage Festival (Please please play me some Stella by Starlight or some Jeep's Blues) to the return of the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team (formerly the Hornets), reasons to visit keep piling up. The NBA All Star Game was even held in New Orleans in 2008, which is a huge revenue booster for any city. And don't forgot those New Orleans Saints we just discussed a minute ago!
Besides the already iconic festivals and sporting events that have continued despite the damage to the city, they've also been smart enough to create new festivals, like the Running of the Bulls parade. As I mentioned earlier in the article, over 126 major festivals have and will take place in 2015. Whenever you decide to visit, there's going to be something new to do! And that makes all the difference.
Can't Keep A Good City Down
So we've gone over quite a few reasons that New Orleans, a colorful and exciting piece of history, is finally back on its feet and stronger than ever. From the time and money put in by volunteers and businesses, to the collaborative planning efforts of the city government, to the restoration of the iconic places everyone knows and loves in NOLA, to all the new and exciting places to eat, stay and play, this city is looking better than before. Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress, but it goes to show that you can slow it down, but you can't stop The Big Easy and you just can't keep a good city down.
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