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Like many Americans, I have a love affair with New Orleans. Ever since I went there on a family vacation when I was a kid, I’ve returned to the city every few years just to get my fix of Southern hospitality. Needless to say, Hurricane Katrina broke my heart, as it did to so many fans of the city.
I was in New Orleans in 2003, two years before Katrina, showing my son the city on his first visit. Between beignets, pirates and voodoo curses, the city had all the adventure a little boy — and his father — could ask for. My next trip to New Orleans was in 2007, two years after Katrina. At that time, the city was still in shock. Many businesses were closed, the French Quarter felt like a ghost town, and the city’s seize-the-day spirit seemed gone forever, replaced by a palpable sadness and desperation. Back then, it was hard to believe that New Orleans would ever truly recover.
But here we are 10 years later and, as you can read in this issue’s cover story (“Rebirth of the Big Easy”), New Orleans has risen from the ashes to become one of America’s great cities once again. Businesses are open and thriving but, even more important, the city has regained its creative heart and soul.
For clients and travel agents, the rebirth of New Orleans is especially good news. Few destinations are as unique as the Big Easy. With its culture, history and food, New Orleans offers visitors an authentic slice of life that can’t be replicated. And now with the city experiencing new life, it’s a safe bet to say it will continue to deliver on the expectations of visitors. It’s amazing to think that there are actually more restaurants in the city now than before Katrina.
Agents should experience the new New Orleans themselves and make sure they’re educated about all the changes that have taken place and all the new possibilities for travelers. It’s time to rid consumers of the image of a devastated New Orleans once and for all and let them know that this beloved city is back and ready for action.