Tourism slows amid COVID concerns, mandates


NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — This weekend will be the first since New Orleans enacted the COVID vaccine mandate.

If you want to go into a restaurant, bar or entertainment venue, you have to show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test. The mandate is in response to the surge in COVID cases at a time when New Orleans businesses were counting on a surge in tourists.

When visiting the city, you’ll still hear the iconic sounds of New Orleans and you’ll still find visitors in the city’s most picturesque places. Ricardo Sanchez said overall, people are coming for the culture, food and the history.

Sanchez and his family are visiting from Colombia. Despite the state battling the worst COVID surge since the pandemic began, his family feels comfortable traveling internationally.

“Knowing that we have been vaccinated and that the restaurants have been very rigorous with the vaccine certificate,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez supports Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s mandate.

“I think it’s necessary for humanity to be preserved,” Sanchez said.

Jasmine Payton is in town from Charlotte, North Carolina and believes the mandate is necessary.

“I want it to go everywhere. In Charlotte, I want them to do it as well.”

As tourism was beginning to rebound, there are several factors slowing the cash flow.

“The Delta surge, the cancellation of Jazz Fest and other major festivals and the vaccine mandate have been three really new developments that have made some people stop and rethink their travel and rethink New Orleans,” said Kelly Schulz with New Orleans & Company.

Schulz believes this hit is temporary.

“We’re working to drive business to the city this fall in smaller, more intimate settings as opposed to a giant festival.”

It’s not just restaurants and bars beginning to feel some of the impacts of Mayor Cantrell’s mandate.

“It’s really slowed down a lot. There’s hardly anybody out here,” said Donna Constanza, owner of La Petit Fleur in the French Quarter.

“This is the worst. Even after Hurricane Katrina, this is the worst.”

Despite the challenges, there is a plea to continue making New Orleans a destination city.

“The chefs, the store owners, we need your business. We love you, we want you to come, but do so in a way that follows the safety guidelines,” Schulz said.

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