After Hurricane Katrina, as the city lost billions of dollars in tourism business, the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau embarked on a mission to overcome unprecedented brand impairment. Today, the tourism industry stands taller, stronger than before.
Michael Brown, the former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the initial poster child for all that went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is visiting New Orleans for the fifth anniversary of the event that made him said poster child.
The Katrina anniversary is all about contrasts. More than one resident has called it a tale of two cities and, as cliched as that phrase may be, it certainly applies here. Unemployment is below the national average, but poverty is twice the national rate.
To really know if we have succeeded, to really know if we have created a New Orleans region better than before, we have to go out ten years. Here we will find the “new normal” that will come to pass after the Katrina money has run dry, and the economy is left to stand on its own.
Beaches have been cleaned of crude, the leak has been plugged and some cities never had oil wash ashore at all. Still, tourists stay away from what they fear are oil-coated coastlines—a perception officials say could take years to overcome and cost the region billions of dollars.
The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill's economic fallout has added a cruel hurdle to the effort to relocate the Hurricane Katrina cottage dwellers, who live in the structures for free, paying utilities and rent only for the lots they live on—or paying no rent if they own the lots.
Nearly five years after Katrina and the devastating failures of the levee system, New Orleans is well on its way to getting the protection system Congress ordered: a ring of 350 miles of linked levees, flood walls, gates and pumps that surrounds the city and should defend it against the kind of flooding that in any given year has a 1 percent chance of occurring.
Five years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, the city's mayor said its recovery—slowed by the Gulf oil spill—will take at least another five years.