Dark tourism has always been a big part of the New Orleans experience, with hordes of travelers visiting the graves, hoping to catch a glimpse of vampires, ghosts and the supernatural. A big part of it is due to author Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles, then other creepy stories have added up to the myths and the gloomy attractions of the Big Easy.
Other than destruction, Hurricane Katrina has also added to the dark paths of tourists visiting New Orleans. Hurricane-themed tour are the big thing these days, with buses taking visitors to the Lower Ninth Ward where nature ran havoc and did most damage. It also helps that this particular area has been quite slow in recovering after Katrina.
New Orleans authorities are now taking a stand against these tours to the Lower Ninth Ward as they claim the buses are damaging the freshly paved streets. Plus the fact it’s all borderline disaster voyeurism does not really build up the case of macabre fans. According to the New York Times, the New Orleans police are currently fining those that do not observe the ban on motor cars in the area ( word of a 150 USD fine has made it into the news) and also turn back bus tours that want to access the Lower Ninth Ward.
The ban is not new, but until now officials and the police had chosen a very loosely approach to enforcing it. To make sure the Lower Ninth is protected,Â city councilman Ernest F. Charbonnet wants to introduce legislation that would limit bus tours in the area at a 30 person capacity and restrict them to the main streets in the area.
“Residents don’t like being gawked at by tourists as though they’re sideshow attractions,” said Mr. Charbonnet.
The tourism industry of New Orleans is not something to overlook. About 9 million tourists visit this top US landmark and boosting travel is good for Big Easy business. But there indeed has to be a limit to what visitors are allowed to do within the city. Yet Hurricane Katrina is apparently quite the cash cow for tourism agencies, as shown by Robbie Brown of New York Times.
Thirty-four licensed bus companies operate in New Orleans, many with tours focused on the hurricane. With names like “Hurricane Katrina – America’s Greatest Catastrophe,” they charge about $45 for firsthand glimpses of vine-covered houses and abandoned properties. “We’ll drive past an actual levee that ‘breached’ and see the resulting devastation that displaced hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents,” Gray Line, one of the largest tour companies, promises on its Web site.
Maybe another solution would be for New Orleans official to advise travel companies to turn hurricane-themed tours into biking tours or walking tours. Helping those tour operators that comply promote their services to tourist might prove to be the needed incentive. Would that be the best middle ground to be reached?
Photo source – Wikipedia