The answer depends on who you ask. I know this post isn't maybe about advertising and marketing...but in a sense it is. And, I'll try to answer your questions...
Make no mistake about it...downtown New Orleans is just fine. The meeting for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA)was held at the Sheraton Downtown and I had the opportunity to walk several blocks around the property.
The problems are outside of the city center.
On our trip back to the airport I asked my driver what it was like in the 9th Ward. After all, it had been over two years. He looked at his watch and said, "We've got a few minutes. I'll show you."
It's not a pretty sight. While there are many homes that have been rebuilt there are also entire sections of the area that are still a major mess. Next door to a home that has been rebuilt might be a vacant lot with trash and left over items from the flood.
There are homes with the markings still painted on the front that tell how many bodies of dogs, cats...and humans...were found there.
It's sobering and more than pitiful.
I flew out of New Orleans sitting next to a young woman of 30 who has deep roots in the community. Her family had been in the city for five generations. She is the only one left. Her other family members all moved out. "It tore our lives apart", she said. "My parents, my grandparents, aunts, uncles are all gone. And we used to be so close. Every Sunday dinner at my Grandmothers for 25 people! Thank God everybody made it out safely but I'm the only one that has returned to New Orleans full time."
She added that her grandfather is rebuilding the family home but it's been a slow process. "Daddy", she said, "loves two things, fishing and playing domino's. His boat was destroyed during Katrina and all that is left of the house is the front porch. He drives back every couple of weeks from Baton Rouge to work on the rebuilding and to play domino's on that wrecked porch with his friends."
She told me her family is going to surprise him with a new boat come Father's Day - 2008. "He'll be really happy. Now if only our entire family could move back..."
So, is it OK to visit New Orleans? Sure...and maybe by visiting you're helping folks get back on their feet. Go for it.
Micheal P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications