I just watched nola.com’s online economic forum. (If 20 year-old me watched me type that sentence, he’d be so disappointed.) While everything is still fresh in my mind, I want to give you some of the things that stood out to me:
- Jerry Reyes, the GM at Westin New Orleans Canal Place was one of the chosen Zoomers. He said weekday occupancy is around 15% and weekend around 35%. Over 1/3 of their bookings now are same-day. His business overall can continue limping along until we get to the other side, undoubtedly due to laying off staff and minimizing operating costs. As a result, a good portion of his job is directing those who are furloughed to resources that can keep them afloat and available to the hotel when they can eventually be re-hired.
- As much as individual travel is a piece of the puzzle, the convention business plays a massive role in our economy. New Orleans will continue feeling significant economic pain until conventions return.
- Travel industry surveys provide some hope. The results say it will take much longer for people to feel comfortable again about traveling abroad as opposed to domestically. New Orleans is well positioned in the domestic travel market.
- The CEO of the Port of New Orleans, Brandy Christian, had some interesting input. The cruise industry and the businesses that support is a much larger piece of our economy than I realized. While they expect it to take three years to return to 2019 numbers, early booking for cruises next year is surprisingly strong.
- New Orleans is among the three ports that are expected to first see cruises return. That’s because our location fits well for the shorter, domestic itineraries that will be in demand as the industry starts to resume operations.
- Also Zooming was Greg Feirn, the CEO of LCMC Health, and he had some good news. At the early April peak of COVID in New Orleans, LCMC Health had 400 positive patients. Yesterday, they had 51, and 22 of those were transferred in from outside of the area. Their number of ICU patients has decreased from over 100 to 15. Please keep wearing those masks and distancing.
- Finally, Michael Hecht from GNO, Inc. was asked about the future of our economy, and where the opportunities are to become less dependent upon tourism. The pandemic is prompting companies to bring more manufacturing back to the U.S., and he said conversations have already started with some large corporations to locate in the New Orleans area. Also, our transportation resources (rail, river, roads) put us in a good place to attract the logistics and warehousing industries that are growing as a result of retail’s continued migration online. Finally, an effort has begun to attract the workforce that can suddenly work anywhere to New Orleans from older, more expensive markets like New York.