NEARLY two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, tourist services there are starting to bounce back. But the city is far from ready to let the good times roll.
Most of the area's hotels are still closed, a recent survey found; those that are open mostly house evacuees and relief and reconstruction workers. Although scores of restaurants are serving again, many are on reduced hours, and some of the best-loved were still closed as of the Travel section's Tuesday deadline.
But at least some air and train service has returned, and last weekend Gray Line tours began rolling again.
Two days before, the city extended its curfew from midnight to 2 a.m. after bar owners in the party-prone Quarter threatened to defy the earlier shutdown.
The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau was posting regular updates on its website, http://www.neworleanscvb.com . Kim Priez, the organization's vice president of tourism, said the city was officially reopening to travelers on Jan. 1, Associated Press reported. "It's not going to be quite where we used to be," Priez said. "But if they know that, then we're welcoming them."
Here's how the city's hotels, restaurants and transportation are faring:
Lodging: Nearly two-thirds of the 266 hotels in the New Orleans area were still closed as of Oct. 10, according to a survey by Smith Travel Research, an industry information and data provider in Hendersonville, Tenn. Of the 91 that were open, only 24 were accepting tourists; the rest housed relief workers and evacuees, the company found.
Beyond the physical damage from winds and flooding, a major problem, especially for bigger hotels, is finding enough employees, many of whom lost their homes in the tragedy. But hotels are coming online every day. Among them:
The 600-room Hotel Monteleone, a French Quarter landmark, along with its spa, bar and cafe, opened Monday to tourists as well as reconstruction workers. Reflecting lack of staff, maid service was offered weekly and in-room mini-bars were emptied, a spokeswoman said.
Marriott International Inc. said last week that 12 of its hotels in the New Orleans area had reopened. Housing relief workers now, they were accepting reservations from all travelers starting Nov. 1. Among them were the JW Marriott on Canal Street, the New Orleans Marriott and four Courtyard hotels. The company's Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans and Ritz-Carlton, Maison Orleans remained closed.
Tours: Gray Line New Orleans resumed a limited schedule Oct. 14, with tours to the French Quarter, Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, La.; and nearby swamps and bayous. For information: (800) 535-7786, http://www.grayline.com .
Airlines: American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and Southwest were among airlines flying again to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. But service remained limited.
For instance, Southwest, which flew more than 50 flights per day from New Orleans before Katrina, was flying only four daily round trips last week, all between the city and Houston's Hobby airport.
According to the airport's website, usual routes to and from the airport were open, but only one side of the twin spans (Interstate 10 east of New Orleans) was open to two-way traffic. Rental cars and cabs were available, buses were on limited service, and the airport shuttle had resumed service. For details, visit http://www.flymsy.com .
Trains: Amtrak, which had storm damage to tracks and bridges, has restored service on its City of New Orleans line, which runs between New Orleans and Chicago, and to its Crescent line, which runs to New York. But the Sunset Limited train, which usually runs between Los Angeles and Orlando, Fla., ends in San Antonio, Texas. Full service east of New Orleans is not expected until next year.
Associated Press and Times wire services contributed to this report.