N.O. Tourism Pros Urge Preparation Over Panic

Italy Virus Outbreak Art
A museum visitor in Rome wears a mask on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (AP photo)

NEW ORLEANS – The daily paper reported that at least two groups who were scheduled to have March conferences in New Orleans have cancelled their events due to uncertainty about the international coronavirus outbreak. The World Petrochemical Conference will not be coming to the Hilton New Orleans Riverside at the end of the month. And Explorance cancelled its human resources gathering scheduled for March 11-13 at the Marriott on Canal the Street.

Local tourism professionals are obviously concerned that virus fears will have a negative impact on their industry, which is the third-biggest employer in the city that brings in $9 billion annually. So the balance they are striking is to let the public know that local businesses and government are taking steps to prepare for all scenarios while reminding potential visitors that there’s currently no reason not to come to New Orleans.

“Our priority is providing reliable information to our visitors, members and residents and exercising precaution, not panic,” said Kristian Sonnier, the vice president of marketing and PR for New Orleans & Company (formerly the Convention and Visitors Bureau). “We’re focused on facts driving decisions, not fear. Currently, our focus is 100 percent on providing our members, visitors and residents with the best information possible for them to make informed decisions about travel.”

The group published an “online toolkit” that provides information from local, state and federal governments.

“We are providing our members, visitors and residents with all the information and tools available so that they can make informed decisions about travel,” said Sonnier. “Currently, there are no official warnings or restrictions on travel in the U.S. and no reason to cancel events in the U.S. There is no guidance from health experts that people need to be reconsidering travel in the U.S. We are relaying this kind of information to all our members, visitors and residents, and will change course if and when local, state and federal experts advise.”

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