Overtourism Hits New Orleans Hard, But Locals Are Fighting Back
New Orleans is now one of many popular destinations facing extreme overtourism.
The Independent reported on Tuesday that the Big Easy is being flooded with five times the number of tourists per resident than the center of Venice — which welcomes about 20 million visitors annually.
Overtourism has plagued many destinations over the past few years. The Taj Mahal is timing and fining guests in an effort to mitigate crowds; Thailand is closing some of its beaches; and Amsterdam has officially banned tours of the famous red light district.
Now, New Orleans residents are hoping to combat the surge of tourists. In a study conducted by the New Orleans Sustainable Tourism Task Force — an "independent collective of concerned citizens launched last year" — locals examined the main contributing factors of the tourism boom and how it affects the city.
Some issues the report references include how the city is being marketed as a 24/7 party destination, as well as how Airbnb (and other short-term vacation rental platforms) are driving up rent and forcing locals out of the neighborhood. The report also claimed overcrowding on the streets has had a negative impact on infrastructure.
“Decades of unmanaged mass tourism inundating the historic center [French Quarter] has manifested in overcrowding, disrespect for locals, exorbitant parking rates, noise and crime,” the report reads. “As a result, the relationship between all area residents and their own historic center has been fractured.”
Aside from just starting a discourse about the state of tourism in the Big Easy, the report suggests New Orleans residents establish a new, "holistic, community-first" approach to help amend these issues. The task force proposed that the city introduce new programs that will benefit local musicians and artists, and recalibrate the measure of success in tourism — not just rely on the number of arrivals to gauge what's going on in the industry. Reshaping Bourbon Street's party-mecca reputation and continuing to promote New Orlean's culture in an authentic way is also at the top of the agenda.
As for tourists or even casual travelers who still have New Orleans at the top of their bucket lists, there are also measures you can take to show respect for the city and the people that live there. Be polite and use common sense — (read: don't vandalize, don't litter, be mindful of locals and refrain from getting too drunk on Mardi Gras).
“More tourism is not necessarily better,” the study said, quoting a National Geographic article. “Better tourism is better. Governments and industry should, therefore, abolish the practice of setting tourism goals based only on arrivals.”