A decade after ‘Katrina’ – New Orleans back as top tourist destination

Just a decade after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, the city has reinvented itself as one of America’s great tourism destinations again.

New Orleans after being hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005

New Orleans, after being hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Image by Infrogmation of New Orleans / CC BY 2.0

Since the disaster struck, the number of visitors has jumped from 3.7 million in 2006 – the year after the hurricane – to a massive 9.5 million tourists in 2014.

The New York Times reports that the city has shown remarkable bounce-back-ability from the catastrophe in August 2005 when 80% of the urban area was flooded and hundreds lost their lives.

The city now has 600 more restaurants than it had back then while hotel occupancy rates have also improved considerably.

Part of the attraction of the new New Orleans is the fact that it offers attractions beyond the classic areas such as the Golden District, The National World War Two Museum and the famed French Quarter.

Current tourist attractions include the new Crescent Park along the Mississippi River, the hipster Bywater neighborhood, and St. Roch, a rebuilt historic market that was destroyed in the storm.

U.S. hospitality & leisure practice leader, Scott Berman, said New Orleans had expanded its attraction by not just being a leisure tourist destination but by investing to become one of America’s biggest convention destinations.

He praised the way the city had tackled the double challenge of Katrina and an economic recession by coming through bigger and stronger as a centre for national and international tourism.

Within a decade it had recovered from the widespread devastation to be almost at a level of the 10.1 million tourists from 2004 with current hotel revenue at US$1.37 billion, up from US$1 billion 11 years ago.

A major minus on the landscape for the iconic city is the fact that it has the dubious distinction of having the highest murder rate of any US big city, though it is stressed that it is the indigenous population rather than tourists who are normally the victims of such crime.

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