Getting the Word Out

The storms that buffeted the country's southern-most states have left a trail of fear regarding the viability of the Gulf Coast as a destination. This fear may dispel when hotels that were not affected but have housed only FEMA and other recovery workers since the hurricanes, re-open for tourism. The following update is from information gathered at presstime: In New Orleans, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is expected to be closed through March 31, 2006. The 600-room Hotel Monteleone, which experienced minor damage to its exterior, reopened in October. The 175-room Omni Royal New Orleans and the 83-room Bienville House also are expected to open in October. The 251-room Chateau Sonesta expects to reopen this month, but reservations there and at the 500-room Royal Sonesta have been cancelled without penalty through December 31, 2005. (Intercontinental Hotel Group has also waived cancellation penalties through December 31.) The 1,310-room Marriott New Orleans is accepting reservations this month, and all area Marriotts expect to be back in operation by January 2006. The 250-room Hotel Monaco, New Orleans is accepting reservations after December 29, 2005. The 1,184-room Hyatt Regency New Orleans will accept reservations starting January 2007.

Along Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, damage was done by casino barges that were carried onshore by the storm surge. In October, Governor Haley Barbour approved a bill to allow casinos to be built 800 feet inland—thereby assuaging the reinvestment fear of casino operators and other developers; he also convened a meeting of more than 100 architects, engineers, and developers to explore rebuilding the Coast.

In Galveston, the 428-room Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Convention Center resumed normal business operations within a week. In fact, the incredible devastation and panic in the wake of the hurricanes has created misperceptions regarding the extent of the damage throughout the Gulf Coast and the affected states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida. While Mobile, AL, is assisting evacuees and rescue workers with housing, the Mobile Airport is open and fully functioning, as is the Arthur C. Outlaw Convention Center (reopened the week following the hurricane). Alabama Gulf Shores/Orange Beach reopened within days, after receiving minimal damage. In Pensacola, FL, the Pensacola Civic Center functioned as a shelter, and lodging was limited due to recovery efforts. The northern Louisiana cities of Shreveport and Bossier City are helping displaced citizens but are not themselves affected.