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How Coronavirus Affects New Orleans' Tourism, Events And Economy — An FAQ

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Photo by Zack Smith Photography, Courtesy of French Quarter Festivals, Inc.
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French Quarter Fest

The spread of coronavirus and the number of known COVID-19 cases are ramping up — just as New Orleans enters tourism season. 

This, of course, leaves everyone with a lot of questions about what's canceled, what's safe, what happens to local businesses and what happens to the city's economy. We'll answer those questions here.

Updated March 17, 2020

What events have been canceled?

First it was fests, then it was sports. At this point, society has essentially been canceled. All public gatherings in New Orleans have been banned. Bars, theaters, casinos, malls and gyms have been shut down. Restaurants are prohibited from offering dine-in service. Universities, primary schools and libraries have turned out the lights and locked their doors. 

Need something to look forward to? These fests have been rescheduled for fall:

  • New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest has been postponed until fall (no specific dates yet)
  • Buku Festival (Labor Day Weekend)
  • French Quarter Fest (Oct. 1-4)

What events does the City of New Orleans have the authority to cancel?

During a state of emergency, the mayor has the power to cancel all public and private events. 

Is it safe to go to local businesses like restaurants, bars, concert venues, sports arenas, casinos, etc.?

Were you even listening when Mayor Cantrell or Governor Edwards was talking? 

Is it safe to travel?

People should avoid all non-essential travel.

All cruise travel in the United States has been suspended, and President Trump has banned all travel from Europe to America through mid-April. 

If the pandemic hasn't dissuaded you from traveling, perhaps the long security lines will?

How will coronavirus impact New Orleans’ economy?

The virus has ground the tourism industry to halt, shut down the service industry, and crippled retail business and the gig economy. As business revenues plummet, many workers are being laid off.

Mayor Cantrell says the coronavirus pandemic is now threatening the city’s ability to provide basic services. That's because public health measures are expensive and the city's revenue stream is drying up.

Festivals: Every year, festivals bring in nearly a billion dollars to the New Orleans area. Jazz Fest alone contributes $300 million to the local economy. 

Cruises: Cruise travel, which brings approximately $300 million a year to New Orleans, has been suspended.

Conferences:  The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center brings in approximately $2 billion to the city annually. Until further notice, conferences have been canceled.

Hospitality: Social distancing mandates have caused hospitality businesses to close or signifantly cut back operations, imperiling the income of business owners and the city's 100,000 hospitality workers.

Too much to keep up with? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a news roundup at the end of each week.

Betsy Shepherd covers environmental news and is producing a podcast on the Civil Rights Movement in small-town Louisiana. She won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for a feature she reported on Louisiana’s 2016 floods.

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