New Orleans’ culinary scene is so rich and unique that it is an embedded part of who we are, and it’s also a particular point of pride with locals. One of the big draws for visitors to our city is our one-of-a-kind cuisine. It affords locals something that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to sustain as a mid-size city of 370,000: cultural assets that include 1,400 diverse restaurants. Similarly, our local retail options and unique lodging opportunities, like historic bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels, simply could not thrive without visitors.
Tourism gives the “little guy” a stronger opportunity to succeed. It is the reason we are able to keep the doors open to so many world-class restaurants, and the reason so many small businesses and mom-and-pop shops are able to thrive in New Orleans.
We are very lucky to live in a city that values authentic, local businesses over big chains, and that is a huge reason why we retain that “je ne sais quoi” in our city – that special feeling that sets us apart and that echoes our history and our individuality. If an emerging chef has the drive and the vision to open up his or her own restaurant, New Orleans is the place that can support it, both culturally and economically, in large part because of tourism. If an entrepreneur from a different city has an idea, he or she can move to New Orleans to see that dream become a reality. New Orleans provides the support, the resources and space for entrepreneurs to make their idea become a successful business; Forbes recently named us the Biggest Brain Magnet in the country for that very reason. Suppliers, transportation services, tour guide companies, and so many other sectors within the hospitality industry are representative of local small businesses that see big numbers (both of people and revenue) because of the influx of passionate visitors year after year seeking that true New Orleans experience.
Through tourism, even the “little guy” is able to share his craft or passion with the world, as visitors to New Orleans continue to grow in numbers. We create ambassadors for this city out of the tourists that help keep the doors to our small businesses open, and the two-way relationship is important. They leave with the lingering taste of our distinct cuisine on their lips, or the memory of that incredible view from a boutique hotel window, or a product from that brand-new retail space, or the story of New Orleans’ history gleaned from a local tour guide — and we remain with more economic fuel to continue our culture.