Coronavirus Disrupts Tourism
Industry officials messaging restraint and hygiene
On Monday, the city of New Orleans declared its first presumed case of coronavirus, or COVID-19. There are now at least three such cases in the city being treated at three different hospitals. On Tuesday night, the state of Louisiana reported three additional cases located in the state, making six total in Louisiana as of then. The numbers are likely to increase, and tourism officials are working to calm fears and provide up-to-date information for travelers.
In a tweet, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who is responsible for statewide tourism, said, “Regarding the coronavirus and Louisiana tourism: I am working around the clock with local leaders to ensure we do everything we can to protect Louisianians whose businesses and jobs may be most affected by the virus’ disruption to tourism – our state’s 4th largest industry.”
He also tweeted that he didn’t see a reason to cancel any events or festivals in any part of Louisiana at this time, based on the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He did, however, add that “Should the information change…we will do whatever is necessary to protect the health and safety of all Louisianians.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced at a press conference Tuesday that she is cancelling large public events this week. Those include today’s YLC’s Wednesday at the Square performance and this weekend’s uptown/downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parades, Italian American Parade and Super Sunday.
The mayor cited a public health strategy epidemiologists call “flattening the curve” as part of her decision in canceling the events. The goal is to prevent an early spike in cases so the virus doesn’t spread too fast, even if the same number of people is ultimately infected. This relieves strain on the health care system and allows more time for treatments and vaccines to be created.
There has been no public announcement regarding French Quarter Festival (April 16-19) or New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (April 23-May 3), both of which draw hundreds of thousands of tourists and major tourist spending.
In the near term, cancelled events have an immediate negative impact on the tourism economy and those who work in it. Cruise lines are offering incentives to prevent cancellations and airlines are assuring customers of their hygiene practices.
On Tuesday, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) released a statement that it is working in coordination with the City of New Orleans, the New Orleans Health Department and the Louisiana Department of Health to monitor COVID-19. The statement said, “the risk of the general public contracting coronavirus in New Orleans is currently low. At this time, since MSY does not have direct service to or from the high-risk areas, the airport has seen no significant impacts on its operations.”
MSY said the CDC has not recommended postponing or canceling travel to New Orleans or any other cities in North America, and provided a link to the CDC’s travel advisories, which can be found here.
The Port of New Orleans, the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S., is also working to provide information to travelers.
“The safety and health of cruise passengers and crew members are top priorities for the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA). We continue to actively monitor the rapidly evolving situation and are in constant communication with public health agencies and industry partners,” said Jessica Ragusa, Port NOLA’s communications manager. “Under the current circumstances and the recent U.S. Department of State travel advisory, cruise lines continue to implement higher and more rigorous protocols to protect all those onboard. Our cruise line partners are working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take all precautionary measures necessary. Cruise itineraries from Port NOLA have not been affected at this time.”
According to Ragusa, all cruise lines are doing temperature checks and screenings of passengers and crew before embarkation. They are not temperature tested upon disembarking, though cruise lines have increased precautionary and medical protocol for passengers and crew while onboard.
Port NOLA is currently homeporting cruises on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines. For additional details and cruise line contact information, you can visit the Port’s website.
The CDC’s guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 include:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
The CDC also advises those at highest risk for infection, people age 60 and over or those with underlying conditions, to stock up on supplies and remain at home as much as possible “for a period of time” to limit potential exposure.