While New Orleans escaped a Katrina-level catastrophe, Hurricane Ida is disrupting lives, businesses, and meetings and events planned for this fall.
When Hurricane Ida slammed into New Orleans with 150-miles-per-hour winds and torrential rains, it knocked out power and caused flooding and wind damage severe enough to have the area declared a major disaster. Though the destruction was widespread and 12 people in the region lost their lives, the efforts taken to shore up the city after Katrina’s devastation in 2005 held off some of the worst of the death and destruction Katrina wrought, alleviating the need for rescue operations.
Power is now being restored in many areas, including the French Quarter and Central Business District, and the lights are back on at the Convention Center, Superdome and larger hotels such as the Hilton Riverside, Hyatt Regency and Marriott (Canal Street), as well as many other hotels downtown. Those that have power are now assessing their major mechanical systems and other essential functions. While staffing remains limited due to employees dealing with power loss and damage at their homes, as soon as they are restaffed and ready, they do plan to reopen, according to Visit New Orleans, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. Many of the area’s hotels that have power restored now are re-opening to house first responders and emergency personnel.Some flights also are resuming at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
However, the city’s ability to host meetings and conventions, which had been bouncing back this fall, is still severely limited. According to NewOrleans.com, there were 33 conferences scheduled to be held in New Orleans in September, from small corporate meetings to a 12,000-person trade show. Some, including the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) Symposium, which was scheduled to be held at the New Orleans Marriott Sept. 16-19, were cancelled outright. Others, including the Ducks Unlimited 84th National Convention, which was to be held at the New Orleans Marriott Sept. 8-11, were postponed, while some conference organizers raced to find venues in other destinations to host their meetings over the original dates. Yet others, such as the Perrin Conferences Opioid Litigation Conference, a one-day event scheduled to be held Sept. 9 at the Royal Sonesta, went fully virtual.
In New Orleans, the plan is to keep the attrition from its meetings and events industry as minimal as possible — and to get the infrastructure and staffing back as soon as possible to avoid having to lose its ability to host more of this fall’s scheduled meetings.
“Once power is fully restored, our tourism industry, hotels, restaurants and attractions should get back up and running relatively quickly, as soon as employees can return home and get back to work,” New Orleans & Company said on its website. “We are the most resilient city in the world and don’t be surprised if we return to business and normalcy faster than any could imagine.”