Superdome
Lucas Jackson  /  Reuters
A Gray Line bus tour will follow a route through hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods and pass by the Superdome, where storm victims waited for days to be rescued.
By Brian Tracey Business Editor
msnbc.com
updated 12/15/2005 11:37:35 PM ET 2005-12-16T04:37:35
COMMENTARY

Ever since Hurricane Katrina came ashore with a vengeance earlier this year, New Orleans has struggled to rebuild and recover its status as one the nation's top tourist destinations. But the Big Easy has a big problem — how to encourage visitors to return to a trashed town? Well, how about a disaster tour?

Bus company Gray Line New Orleans will begin on January 4 a "Hurricane Katrina Tour — America's Worst Catastrophe!" to show off the ruin that befell the city when the storm hit on August 29, breaching a faulty system of river levees and flooding 80 percent of its neighborhoods.

Gray Line normally organizes trips through the city's historic districts as well as its swamps and spooky cemeteries, but the company says its business has been severely curtailed by the hurricane. It said the Katrina tour was born of frustration over the government's slow response to rebuilding, and that about 10 percent of the $35 ticket price for the three-hour tour will be donated to Katrina relief groups.

"People around the country don't understand it until they see it firsthand," Gregory Hoffman, general manager of Gray Lines New Orleans, told Reuters. "We're going to walk them through what we as locals experienced leading up to and following the hurricane."

The tour will follow a route through the ravaged Lakeview neighborhood and pass by the Superdome stadium, where storm victims waited for days to be rescued with little food, water or medical attention. Passengers will not be let off Gray Line buses to take photos of neighborhoods, Hoffman said.

We assume the looting of souvenirs will also be a no-no.

Not-so bad ideas

  • We all know that smoking and boozing are the adult equivalents of cookies and milk, but tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds decided it needed to reinforce the concept recently.

Earlier this year company launched a marketing campaign for its Camel brand of cigarettes aimed at young adults where they were sent boxes on their birthdays labeled "Drinks on Us."  The boxes contained coasters with drink recipes such as "Crazy Bootlegger," which calls for three different brands of spirits and then advises, "Mix three shots together over ice, then make sure you're sitting." Another catchphrase said "Layer It On, Go 'Til Daybreak." Hey, the more you drink, the more you smoke!

Not surprisingly, the attorneys general of California, New York, and Maryland complained the company's pitches to party harder were irresponsible, and this week an apparently sobered R.J. Reynolds decided to cut off the promotion.

  • Speaking of alcoholic beverages, we're sure you've noticed the trend that vodka can't just be vodka anymore, it must be infused with some flavor for those of us too bored or too lazy to mix our own drinks. Peach, pepper, melon, strawberry and bevy of other flavors now augment the once austere liquor, but one company has gone the extra mile: Pearl Persephone, "the first super-premium pomegranate-flavored vodka."

"Today's consumers are constantly searching for unique flavors," said Todd Nickodym, executive marketing manager for David Sherman Corp. which imports the fleshy-fruit enhanced liquor from Canada.

Why stop there? What about a prune-flavored vodka as an after-dinner chaser?

Reuters contributed to this report.

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