Hotel Online  Special Report
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New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau Update
As of 9 A.M. Tuesday, September 6, 2005

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Current Summary - 9 A.M. Tuesday, September 6, 2005
J. Stephen Perry - President/CEO

We offer the deepest and most profound thank you to governments, individuals, trade organizations, and especially our clients, customers, and long-time tourist visitors for the overwhelming show of support and affection for our city and people. You have touched our hearts. Your offers of assistance and your heartfelt expressions of eagernessness to return to our city when we are on our feet has moved us beyond words. We love our city and your communication of your love of our New Orleans has buoyed our spirits.

America's most romantic, walkable, historic city is no longer herself. We hope it will only be for a matter of months. Only time will tell the duration. The birthplace of jazz, home of unique French and Spanish architecture, and the originator of the most renowned cuisine on the planet has taken a terrible hit. But, its government, business and tourism industry leaders are pledging that beginning over the next few months the city will begin its efforts to be reborn better than ever.

Right now, however, we are in a mode of rescuing our citizens who are still trapped and without food, water, and healthcare. They are our first priority.

Among the scores of heroic stories are those of hoteliers who have remained on site protecting guests, tourists, and locals in their properties with no regard for their own safety.

Some of the officers of the Convention Center bravely stayed behind to be of assistance to the property and those in need  when the situation at the Center was unstable.  They made it through the very difficult circumstances and are assisting the National Guard units in clearing and reclaiming the damaged building. The Center may serve as a key location for FEMA operations in the near future. Those decisions, however, have not yet been made by authorities. The Center has power partially restored and is free of evacuees and those small numbers who posed danger to the Center and the evacuees.

Thousands more National Guard troops are entering the city to provide stability.

The Governor and Mayor now believe that the death total will rise into the thousands. Some have estimated deaths will reach between 10,000 to 20,000 by the time the city is drained and all bodies are recovered.

Amtrak trains carrying 1,500 passengers a day out of New Orleans are now running.

Three Carnival Cruise Line Ships have been marshalled by the federal government to move to New Orleans to serve as housing.

The Mayor estimates that 40-50,000 people remain of the 450,000 residents. Many of those remaining refuse to leave their homes, believeing the waters will recede shortly. Authorities are attempting to dissuade them.

The historic French Quarter and nearly all of the hospitality infrastructure survived, though battered. The amazing historic texture and fabric of this unique city...all of those things that draw millions of visitors from around the world resiliently remain.

Several bars have now opened in the Quarter as a gathering spot for locals to visit and share stories, though they have nothing to sell. A lone artist living on Pirates Alley next to the St. Louis Cathedral hung his paintings on the Jackson Square fence just like normal in a symbolic gesture for others that New  Orleans French Quarter culture would absolutely rebound.

Though we will be down for a period, there is a sense already forming among our leaders and the people that we will succesfully be able to preserve all of those things which have made us world famous, and that we will be able to rebuild an even more welcoming vibrant city in which to live, work and do business. It will require all of us to unite. The work will be hard but gratifying. The challenges are immense. We are up to the task.

The tourism leadership is committed to helping lead the greatest urban rebuilding project in our nation's history. We have a historic opportunity to be a living laboratory for taking disaster, infrastructure degradation, and social ills and rebuilding a new city that remains historic and unique, but is a model for rebirth socially and structurally.

It may be quite a while...but one day the riffs of jazz trumpets, the indescribable tempting smells wafting from the kitchens of our great chefs, the aroma of cafe-au-lait and beignets, the buzz of great conventions, that foot-wide magnetic smile of the front bellman, and the romantic strolls through the Quarter will be commonplace again. The spirit of the multicultural people of New Orleans is indefatigable, and though we may be bowed and emotionally stretched, we cannot be defeated and cannot wait to rebuild the world's most authentic city. 

All New Orleans CVB Staff: See Below Instructions in Staff Section: New Information!

National Media: We are working diligently to return your calls but the cell and landline telephone grids are down or overloaded. Only brief windows appear. Mr. Perry has moved to the Lt. Governor's offices in Baton Rouge at 225-342-7009. Please temporarily make requests to the following email address: jstephenperry333@yahoo.com

Meeting Planners: All city-wide conventions are cancelled through December 1.  There will be an announcement Tuesday regading the status of future meetings in December through March. Additional assessments will be made during the next two weeks when we are out of search and rescue mode. Contact the following staff in Washington and Chicago:

Donna Karl   630-357-3480
Peggy Hagaman:  847-236-0200
JoAnne Hunsicker:  703-379-2233

Current CVB Activity

The CVB is working with  Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu to establish an alternate office in Baton Rouge. We will have skeletal operations to work with convention and meetings clients and tour operators and leisure industry professionals operational on Monday. The Chicago and Washington offices are fully functional.

Mr. Perry held a CVB staff meeting Monday at 10:00 a.m. of all personnel in the Baton Rouge area. Assignments were given, staff eagerly volunteered for different tasks, and those who were unable to work were given support.

  • Executive VP for Convention Sales Kitty Ratcliffe will work from Dallas for the next week.
  • Vice President of Tourism Kim Priez will be working from Pensacola, FL.
  • Director of Corporate Sales Sallee Pavlovich will be based out of Washington D.C. for the near future.
  • The Washington and Chicago offices are fully operational and staffed with additional personnel.
  • The CVB President is fully operational at the Lt. Governor's Office in Baton Rouge on the fifth floor of the Capitol Annex along with Vice President Steve Moeller. Telephone 225-342-7009.
Lt. Governor Landrieu has graciously welcomed our industry leaders and provided us a home to operate from. We are forever in his debt. 

The City of New Orleans has set up in the building with us on a separate floor, and we are in constant contact with Brenda Hatfield, Cynthia Sylvain-Lear, and Don Hutchinson. We have wonderful access as well as with the staffs of the Governor and Lt. Governor. Greater New Orleans Inc. and Mark Drennen are also setting up on the first floor of the Annex at the very gracious invitation of the Secretary of Economic Development, Michael Olivier. The political and business base of New Orleans has thus been set up in the same building  adjacent to our capitol courtesy of our state government. This will  greatly facilitate tactical, policy, and financial discussions over the coming months.

Bill Langkopp, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association is also here and working with the CVB team throughout the day.

NOTMC President Sandy Shilstone is established in Houston and is operational and in contact with our team.

The city-wide meeting calendar through December 1 has been cancelled.  An update on future meetings will be posted Tuesday. We will be in touch with all planners affected this week. Please understand that we simply cannot answer all of your questions right now until we have time for proper assessment and discussions. These cannot occur while we are in search and rescue and evacuation mode.
 
Our ability to work with and contact our member hotels and other member companies is severely impaired as of this update. Please be patient with our wonderful suppliers and properties who are under incalculable stress at this time.

Planning meetings between tourism and government leaders will likely not occur until next week, as government agencies, companies and individuals remaining in New Orleans are engaged in basic survival, securing property, acquiring water and food, evacuating citizens, and ardently managing their commitments  to citizens, guests, employees, and property preservation.

There are no means currently of bringing  groups together to discuss strategic issues. Public safety issues are the dominant concern at this time.

The CVB office on St. Charles Avenue is closed and is not likely to have power restored for two months in a best case scenario. It could take many more weeks. Reports indicate that our magnificent new headquarters has been significantly damaged. Updates will be regularly given. We will likely be located in Baton Rouge for the remainder of the year.

To our knowledge, all CVB personnel are safe. Virtually all were asked to evacuate and relocate. Those few who remained cannot be contacted or reached for the most part, but are assumed safe. Only those who evacuated are able to work with you at some level at this time. It is estimated that more than 90% of the CVB staff will have sustained major home damage or outright loss of their homes.

I will continue personally to write updates to the website as I am able. We apologize for any inadequacies of information and are doing our best to maintain communication with all emergency preparedness entities and with all travelers, meeting planners, and tour operators. Please work with our regional offices in the meantime.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I am sorry we cannot speak personally to each of you who have important questions at this time.

J. Stephen Perry
President/CEO

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Contact:

New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau 
J. Stephen Perry 
President/CEO 

630-357-3480 (Chicago)

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