New Orleans lives and dies by its culture. That’s why we have such a thriving hospitality industry. We’re not Nashville. We’re not Charleston, we’re not Dallas or Memphis. Certainly not Las Vegas.
We have a very unique culture including music, that’s informed not only by our European roots, but even more intensely by contributions from people who came here originally, for the most part, as slaves from Africa, but from the Caribbean.
For anyone who is familiar with New Orleans musical culture, I’m preaching to the choir. But consider traditions like jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, voodoo, Mardi Gras Indians, second line parades, social aid and pleasure clubs, even Mardi Gras itself, and so much more. There is nothing, anywhere, like New Orleans.
She is so unique, and so precious that the people who have developed and create this culture—who are immersed in our traditions, and have been for generations—need the support of the mainstream businesses who use their traditions and creativity as a selling point for promoting the city as a tourist destination.
Again: preaching to the choir I may be (if you read this blog), but I firmly believe that the hospitality industry should step up to support the cultural community in New Orleans.
Mayor Cantrell has asserted that some of the revenues the hotel tax that’s created by the millions of visitors should be accessible to the city to support its infrastructure, including streets, sanitation, the Sewerage & Water Board, and police.
In a recent podcast by The Lens with J. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of New Orleans & Co. (the new name of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau), Perry—who’s obviously not pleased with any attempt to allocate monies that go towards promoting tourism— started a very public fight to protect those tourism and concention promotion revenues.
You should know that New Orleans & Co. is a private entity that, along with the New Orleans Tourism & Marketing Corporation (NOTMC), benefits from funding from the hotel tax (this is awfully simplified, but suffice it to say that the bulk of the funding comes from public sources).
Perry accused the city of not being able to effectively manage the resources it currently controls, especially as it relates to infrastructure.
While the role that New Orleans & Co. and the NOTMC play in continuing to develop strategies to attract visitors to New Orleans is crucial (travel to the city is apparently consistently increasing), with more visitors comes a bigger strain on the city’s ability to cope with, simply put, more humans.
I think it would be apropos and right if there was a provision for the taxes gleaned from visitors to be put back into the city itself: both infrastructure and to support and nourish the culture-bearers and creators who make New Orleans the unique destination that it is.
How can you expect to increase visitation to the city year after year, and not experience strain on the city’s already aging infrastructure and ability to keep streets clean and safe and to repair a citywide water and sewer system and streets? This is not rocket science.
While the tourism agencies are obviously doing a fantastic job promoting the city, I do think that the increasing number of visitors to the city requires them to consider parting with some of the money from hotel taxes to assist the city in improving not only its infrastructure, but to contribute towards improving the lives and lot of the people who actually create the culture.
This is a very complicated topic, obviously, but it behooves New Orleans & Co. and NOTMC to consider the impact that their work will have on the citizens who create the authentic culture that makes New Orleans such a “great sell” to the rest of the world. Or else we risk New Orleans losing its soul and becoming Las Vegas: lots of fun, a great attraction, but empty in its soul.