Hurricane Katrina marked a turning point for many people. Amid the rain and winds, the massive storm managed to flood most of the city, wiping out millions of dollars worth of infrastructure, homes, and businesses. We all remember the details and the aftermath of the storm, but ten years later, we are just starting to evaluate the rebuilding and rebirth of New Orleans, and its transformation into one of the best U.S. vacation destinations.
Because of the devastating effects of the storm, many areas of New Orleans were forced to reinvent themselves. As the New York Times points out, the city’s public housing and public school systems were overhauled, and the Art Deco Charity Hospital was replaced by a more advanced medical complex. But housing, healthcare, and infrastructure weren’t the only things the city had to give rebirth to—the tourism industry faced a steep uphill battle as well.
The hospitality industry definitely suffered setbacks after Katrina. In 2004, a year before the storm, the industry was worth $1 billion. After a dramatic fall following Hurricane Katrina, it just reached the billion dollar mark last year. Likewise, the data from Fortune shows that the total number of visitors totaled 9.5 million in 2014, up from 3.7 million in 2006.
Keeping the appeal and the incentive for tourism alive in New Orleans has been hard work. Hurricane Katrina proved to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, but it also cost the city billions of dollars in missed tourist spending. But after ten years, things have returned to normal.
The major attractions in New Orleans are drawing millions of tourists into the city again, despite damage or flooding they may have received during the hurricane. After some extensive repairs and maintenance, they have lived to reestablish New Orleans as one of the top U.S. vacation destinations. St. Louis Cathedral sustained roof damage and subsequent water damage, but ultimately stood to outlast even the most destructive forces. The whole of City Park saw moderate to extreme flooding back in 2005, but sites like the New Orleans Museum of Art were preserved thanks to efforts of the city’s people. The Superdome, once damaged from providing shelter to so many of the city’s residents, is now fully operational and a proud monument to New Orleans Saints football. Even lesser known neighborhoods like Treme have begun to prosper in the city’s tourism industry, as visitors flock to experience the city’s rampant revival.
For all the destruction it caused and the lives it altered, Hurricane Katrina was an unspeakable tragedy that changed an entire city. However, the time-tested presence of the city’s finest attractions is a symbol of the people’s resilience and commitment to their culture. New Orleans isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so book your New Orleans vacation any way you can. Now is the time for us all to admire one of the most fascinating and diverse cities in the United States.