Five years ago, one of the United States’ most prominent tourism destinations suffered a major PR meltdown. Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, destroying a significant portion of city property and forever associating the large town with – you guessed it – disaster. New Orleans had previously been a major centre of tourism within the country, particularly in its Gulf Coast region.
But today, New Orleans is on the way back. The city is welcoming President Obama for his first tourism-based visit, aiming to raise awareness about the city’s current state and welcome visitors from other regions. The South’s party centre appears to have lost little of its charm despite being wrecked by the disaster – many of its residents believe the city has simply gained character.
However, the city has also had to contend with severe population and infrastructure changes in the wake of the disaster. Many of those who fled Louisiana are unlikely to return, both because of the immense damage to their property and the psychological effects of the disaster. The city, however, hasn’t taken the population change poorly – it sees it as an opportunity to start anew and change.
Today, the city is approximately eighty percent populated. Numerous homes that were completely destroyed in Katrina remain, almost untouched since the disaster itself. If New Orleans represents anything today, it’s a destination full of hope and optimism. Despite the immense damage, few of the city’s long-term residents seem bitter or unhappy. Simply put, it’s still charming.
It’s that charm that many hope will bring tourists back to New Orleans. The city has continued to attract tourists from within the United States and internationally, albeit a significantly lower level than it had before the disaster. Given the town’s reputation for opportunism and friendliness, it’s almost an inevitability that New Orleans’ tour firms will see an eventual return to health.