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Taking Tourism Lessons From Katrina [AUDIO]

New Jersey recently announced that 2012 was a record year for tourism spending, but because of the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, 2013 could be one of the worst years for tourism in a long time.

Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development Pam Breaux
Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development Pam Breaux (Will Ragozzino, Getty Images)

Sandy was the second-costliest disaster in United States history, right behind Hurricane Katrina of August 2005. More than seven years later, Louisiana’s tourism numbers are projected to hit record highs.

“I’m here to tell you that tourism and culture and the state of New Jersey will rebound beautifully,” said Pam Breaux to a conference in Atlantic City.

Breaux is Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development. She played a large part in Louisiana’s comeback from Katrina and says reviving tourism is crucial to New Jersey’s rebuild.

Breaux said public perception was a large hurdle for her state, as it is for New Jersey. Recent polls show many people believe the entire Jersey shore was destroyed by Sandy. To correct the perception, Breaux advised that the right messages be delivered continuously.

“You have areas of the state that experienced physical impact, and areas that did not,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to get tourists to every place that can take those tourists in, not only for the good of those sites, but for the good of the state.”

Messages claiming that Louisiana is open for business were delivered for more than a year, according to Breaux. The state’s tourism recovery was fueled by events, bringing outsiders in to experience what Louisiana still had to offer.

A concept known as “voluntourism” was big for Louisiana as well. Over one million people came to help with the recovery, needing hotels for sleep and restaurants for food. Many of those people were repeat volunteers, coming to Louisiana and spending their cash every so often.

Breaux hinted that New Jersey has a great opportunity early next year to show everyone the progress that’s been made by then.

“The Super Bowl will be here about 15 months post-Sandy,” Breaux said. “There are some messages you will want to shape that will be important and beneficial for New Jersey.”

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