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New Orleans area tourism needs to adapt to survive, industry leaders say

Cooper hopes connecting these scenic waterways to folks staying at home will pay off when tourism rebounds.

NEW ORLEANS — From bayous and beignets to swamps and state parks, Louisiana tourism leaders are having to adapt.  

“It’s important for us to keep the content about New Orleans out there to the consumer,” said Mark Romig with New Orleans and Company.

Romig said, because tourism is on hold, it’s more important than ever to showcase what the city has to offer. An aggressive social media campaign through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram highlights what New Orleans was and will be again. 

“We’re getting some really wonderful love letters back to us from people who truly miss New Orleans and who are pulling for us to come back as strongly as possible,” said Romig.

Romig estimates 70% or more of the city’s tourism workers have been either furloughed or laid off. With many hotels and restaurants closed and others operating with low occupancy, how to spotlight tourism, where there isn’t any, can be a challenge. 

“Certainly, tourism has come to a literal stop,” said Romig. “It’s been devastating for our industry.” 

In St. Tammany Parish, tourism leaders are getting creative to keep locals and potential tourists engaged. The St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission is going virtual with things like a tour through Honey Island Swamp and jigsaw puzzles to piece together iconic scenes around the parish.

“The hospitality industry is all about greeting with a smile and, in our case in Louisiana, we like to give hugs, so this is kind of a virtual hug that we’re reaching out with,” said Christian Cooper with the St. Tammany Parish Tourist Commission. “A lot of people don’t realize that St. Tammany Parish is a very large tourist economy. We are actually the fourth largest tourist economy in the state.” 

Cooper hopes connecting these scenic waterways to folks staying at home will pay off when tourism rebounds. 

“We do really believe that travelers will be traveling in-state quite a bit. People will be traveling to destinations that they’re familiar with, and so, I really do think we offer that sense of familiarity,” said Cooper. 

Both Cooper and Romig believe tourists within driving distance will be the first phase in tourism, but even then, it won’t be in high gear.  

“We know that it’s going to be slow. It’s going to have to be methodical, and it’s going to take a couple of years for us to really get back to where we were,” said Romig. 

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