August 1, 2006 | New Orleans

Your site says that New Orleans is open for business…what about the hurricane? Didn't it destroy most of New Orleans?

Everyone in New Orleans has been or knows someone who has been affected in some way but no, Katrina did not destroy most of New Orleans. Just neighborhoods you would not see if you did not look for them. You'll see from pictures on this site and the news that the French Quarter, Riverwalk, Moonwalk, Jackson Square, etc. have not been destroyed, nor did water cover the buildings.  Businesses along St. Charles Avenue are back to work.  Almost all restaurants are now open; very few hotels are are still undergoing renovations.

The most devastating blow to New Orleans was the wind and water damage to neighborhoods affected by the levee breaks.  When you read or see the news, this hurricane damage is usually what you see.  These areas are away from the French Quarter, downtown, Riverwalk and Garden District areas…where tourists visit.   

Are you ready for tourists to visit?

Most definitely YES!  It is important to our city that tourists return to enjoy the beauty, culture, music and food that *is* New Orleans !   This will help all of our businesses – from taxi drivers and musicians to restaurants and attractions.  Without you, many of our employees would not have jobs. 

Are hotels open?

Yes, there are now at least 50,000 available hotel rooms.

Will everything be the same?

In some areas, you will not be able to tell a hurricane has hit. The Audubon Zoo, Mardi Gras World, Gray Line, etc. are open for tours.  The streetcar lines are running down Canal Street; the riverboats are sailing down the Mississippi. Swamp tours are taking place, and music is heard in the French Quarter, which is open all night, as always.

A few restaurants along the lake near Bucktown were destroyed–a popular place for locals–and may not be returning for a much longer period of time.  If you take a ride to some of the outlying neighborhood areas, you will still see damaged and destroyed homes.

Some restaurants may have updated their menus, but you would not know if you had not been there before. So just plan ahead, make your reservations ahead of time, and you will enjoy New Orleans as always!

But isn't it unsafe to visit now? Isn't water still in the streets?

No, it is not dangerous at all and the city is dry, except for a normal rain shower now and then! Unfortunately, every time the news covers New Orleans, they continue to show the pictures of New Orleans from when Hurricane Katrina first hit. All businesses that serve tourists to our city have either already fixed whatever damage they may have had; a few are in the process of renovation with a completion date in the very near future. 

What about the damaged areas?

Only one or two of the most devastated areas near the levee breaks–neighborhoods where people lived–still do not have electricity (and many of their homes may have to be demolished and rebuilt or raised); however, these are areas tourists would normally never see. Other residents, whose homes were not destroyed but need repair due to wind or water damage, are rebuilding and renovating their homes. Nowadays, "How did you make out?" is a greeting that everyone understands. And, of course, many throughout the New Orleans area are already living in their homes, having escaped damage or repaired whatever damage occurred.

Why is there a "tour" of the devastated areas?

Although "disaster tours" are sad, many in the New Orleans area think they are necessary for everone to really know the true magnitude of Katrina. Some feel this is one of the best ways to get national attention so that we can get the help we need to rebuild the city of New Orleans.

A percentage of each tour goes to charities helping Katrina victims; petitions are given to the passengers urging government representatives to rebuild the city. As one article put it: " Survivors of the storm argued that newspaper pictures and television footage could not capture the magnitude of a disaster spread through 141 of the city's 181 square miles." (Misery on Every Corner, LA Times)

This tour, offered by Gray Line, does not go through neighborhoods, but rather stays only on the main boulevards and does not let anyone get out of the bus. The manager of Gray Line, Greg Hoffman, also lost his home.

How are the people of New Orleans handling the tragedy? 

The Spirit of New Orleans is something you can't replace. We receive emails from people who are still waiting to return to their homes, and can't wait to come back "home" because it is a city like no other. Many of us in New Orleans are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in positive ways. I've heard it said that this tragedy has allowed many of us to reset our priorities and recognize what is most important in life; to bond with family members we may not have seen for years; to become part of a tight community working together toward the same goal.     

In the midst of so much heartache, humor has found its way into our lives, helping us deal with the challenges we face.  Some of the links below showcase how the people of New Orleans are lifting their spirits on their way back to a “normal” life.