NEW ORLEANS, La. — Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans bruised and battered, sweeping away billions of dollars of potential tourism business. But like the city, the tourism industry is on the mend. Visitors are returning to New Orleans in bigger numbers, and they aren’t just going for the nightlife on Bourbon Street: One of the biggest attractions is storm damage.
The beignets are back, and so is the Cajun flavor. Tourists are returning to New Orleans for a taste of it all — and they mean all. What some of them want most is a sampling of Katrina: snapshots, they say, of history and the city’s now-infamous levees.
Isabelle Cossart’s tour business took a hit during the storm, and so she’s hitting back with Katrina disaster tours.
It’s a twist that could help restore some of the $1 billion tourism dollars already lost.
Even big tour companies like Grayline see Katrina as a potential blockbuster, proclaiming it on their Web site online booking page as “America’s worst catastrophe.”
In bad taste?
It may be a sign of the times, but it’s a sign not welcomed by everyone.
“Physically creating tours to come see Katrina damage? That’s pathetic,” says Michelle Fallon, a displaced New Orleans resident.
All tourists welcome
Businesses like the “House of Blues” that depend on a thriving tourism industry say the important thing is to get tourists here no matter what.
And Wednesday night, they’re counting on the first live show since Katrina to start drawing them back to this institution.
“It’s almost sold out and we’re really encouraged by that,” says Laura Tennyson, of The House of Blues New Orleans.
It’s encouragement that’s apparently spreading across the country as more tourists arrive.
“Maybe the most patriotic act an American could engage in next year is coming back to New Orleans.” Stephen Perry of New Orleans’ Convention & Visitors Bureau.
It’s a city hoping that red, white... and some blues... will turn the city the color of money.
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