In the past eight years, we have seen New Orleans built back up from great destruction, and because of our will and love for our city, we have enjoyed incredible growth and innovation. A huge factor in our rebuilding was voluntourism; we are forever grateful to the visitors from all over the world – student and church groups, convention attendees, and thousands of travelers – who came to New Orleans to volunteer and help us rebuild homes, businesses, neighborhoods, parks, and communities. They had a tremendous impact on the restoration of our city, but also helped us rebuild our number one industry of tourism.
Because of voluntourism and our determination as loyal New Orleans residents, we picked ourselves up by our bootstraps and made sure the world knew that WE ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS. And through heavy marketing and determination, last year New Orleans enjoyed the economic benefits of $6 billion in tourist spending, the highest number to date.
That is wonderful news, but sometimes it can be easy for New Orleanians to overlook and underestimate how important tourism is to the New Orleans economy. Imagine for a moment what our city would be like without tourism. It is more than likely that much of the French Quarter’s preserved cultural qualities would be lost, more of our city would be in limbo and waiting for renovations and rebuilding, and our entire skyline would be different (read: bare) without many of the hotels and tourist attractions that help make our city a top urban landscape in the United States. New Orleans would be a smaller city, and to be quite honest, much of our history that is now well preserved could just be stories and distant memories. Additionally, the 78,000 people that are employed in the hospitality industry because of tourism would have to find a different way to earn a living – a different industry to build a career out of.
Frankly, without tourism, New Orleans would be a much different place than it is today. We have seen what happens to cities around the country when their leading industries are no longer prospering; without tourism, our economy would struggle and many would be forced to leave and find work elsewhere.
We are so much more than Anywhere, U.S.A., and our thriving tourism industry has a lot to do with that. We have been sharing our culture with people for almost 300 years, and because that is a large part of our livelihood, we have extra incentive and revenue to preserve the cultural treasures that make our city so unique (and hence, valuable!); tourism being our top industry is an incredible asset because cherishing and protecting our culture and traditions is built in to our economy and success as a prominent U.S. city. We will not be the city that tourism forgot. We will uphold and share our culture, and in doing so will keep our economy growing.