Last month, during Mardi Gras, the tourism industry in New
Orleans showed there is life in the old girl yet. The abbreviated
eight-day event could be seen as the first few blips on the city’s
heart monitor. The city is still alive but has a long way to go to
a full recovery from the hurricane disaster of last fall.
The next test will be April 28-30 and May 5-7 when the New
Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, known locally as Jazz Fest,
brings back the music and culture of the beloved and devastated
For Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Picayune reported that of 36,000
hotel rooms available in the area before Hurricane Katrina, only
27,000 were available but that number included 10,000 being used by
evacuees and repair workers.
That’s generally good news for the hotel operators who are up
and running. Andrea Thornton, director of sales and marketing at
the Hotel Monteleone, said the hotel was completely sold out well
in advance of Mardi Gras.
“And that’s unusual for us,” she said. “We usually have a lot of
Like many hotels, the Monteleone is open but not running on all
cylinders. The hotel’s rotating Carousel Bar, a popular New Orleans
hangout, is bustling every night; the Le Cafe restaurant is open
for breakfast and lunch; and the 20,000-square-feet of convention
space is booked for weddings and special events. But the other two
restaurants, the 16th-floor pool and the exercise room are still
being prepared to reopen for Jazz Fest.
Some hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities are taking
advantage of the down time to not only repair storm damage but to
attend to much-needed remodeling work that is not storm related.
The New Orleans Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Web site gives a
full listing of hotels that are open. But beware that despite what
some hotels say, it’s a good idea to check the status by telephone
if a client is interested in a particular restaurant or
Adding to the sense of renewed life in the tourist area,
however, is the fact that Harrah’s Casino reopened on the first day
of Mardi Gras, Feb. 17. With the help of steel-drum bands and
costumed characters, company executives and local dignitaries cut
the ribbon to ceremoniously reopen the casino.
Harrah’s New Orleans was spared serious flooding, and after a
bit of major refurbishing, no signs of damage remain.
Jazz Fest Returns
Many businesses are closed or open limited hours because there
just isn’t enough staff. Help wanted signs are posted in just about
every window in the tourist area. The problem is that there is no
place for employees to live. Just blocks away from the Quarter,
whole neighborhoods have no utilities.
The restaurants New Orleans is famous for are struggling to get
back on their feet. Many eateries are open but have cut back on
hours. Clients should be advised to dine early.
“We have to close at 8 p.m.,” said a waitress at one French
Quarter restaurant. “We only have enough staff for one shift, and
we can’t go more than 10 or 12 hours.”
Transportation for tourists is slowly coming back on line as
well. Airport shuttles to the French Quarter are up and running,
and taxis are abundant. The famous New Orleans streetcars are
running on the Riverfront and Canal Street, but The St. Charles
line into the Garden District was badly damaged by the storm.
As the city still struggles to its feet, Jazz Fest will be the
next shot in the arm. The event will feature hundreds of musicians
and a host of music-industry stars taking over several stages in
various locations. The signature event, the Louisiana Heritage
Fair, will be held at the Fair Grounds Race Course. The Heritage
Fair also features a famous Food Fair and three craft fairs.
Some of the hundreds of musical acts slated for the event
include Fats Domino, Jimmy Buffett, Lionel Richie, Dave Matthews
Band, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan.
The lineup and schedule are being updated regularly as new
performers join in. A listing is updated daily on the Festival’s
official Web site. Tickets are on sale now online and by phone.
They can also be purchased in person at the Jazz Fest ticket office
located at the New Orleans Arena.
New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Tickets are also available through TicketMaster
New Orleans Arena