Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bon temps, mauvais temps

Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the good times have started rolling again in New Orleans, but things are still far from normal. More and more often, I hear how desperately the city needs tourists to return, how critical the restoration of tourism is to the city's recovery, and yet how slow visitors are to come back to the still-struggling city.

A recent episode of Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations" focused on the Big Easy (get it on iTunes). Tony was not subtle in exhorting viewers to return to the city and help it get back on its feet by bringing tourist dollars. Even some of the oldest, most well-known restaurants in the French Quarter are fighting simply to stay open.

Yet, in some ways, New Orleans is holding itself back. The crime rate has skyrocketed since Katrina. Someone mentioned to me last night that there have been more shooting deaths in New Orleans so far in 2008 than in Iraq. That seems a little fanciful to me, and a two-month period is a short span of time from which to draw statistics, but such a claim highlights the city's crime problem.

And that problem is a Catch-22 dilemma. Crime has escalated because of the extreme economic effects of Katrina. To turn things around, the New Orleans economy needs businesses and tourists to return. But, in the face of the city's crime rate, businesses and tourists have been reluctant to do so.

Fortunately, le bon temps seem to be rolling again. The city recently had a big influx of tourism dollars, thanks to the Sugar Bowl, NBA All-Star Game and Mardi Gras. Upcoming events like Jazz Fest and the PGA Tournament will bring more visitors. Like Anthony Bourdain, other celebrities are using their fame to encourage people to return.

Hopefully, the city's tourism industry has turned a corner, and New Orleans can move onto the next chapter of the Katrina recovery effort. We can all help N'awlins put le mauvais temps behind it and keep le bon temps rolling. If you're looking for somewhere fun to spend a long weekend, think no further than New Orleans.



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