In the wake of last summer’s devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill, some restaurants and hotels in the region are actually experiencing economic boom times.
Businesses in the city of New Orleans in particular, and some neighboring parishes as well, find themselves in the unusual position of reaping sales and profits not in spite of, but rather because of the spill.
As reported by David Hammer of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, hotel occupancy and sales tax revenue in the New Orleans area are up substantially thanks to payouts from the BP claims fund and other post-spill related activity.
Crescent City restaurants, too, are enjoying a mini-boom which began in the days when media from all over the globe made New Orleans the command center for oil spill news coverage. Now the eateries, bars and hotels are doing big business from lawyers, government officials, environmental groups and others sorting out the legal repercussions of the massive blowout.
Office space in downtown New Orleans is 85 percent occupied—near historic levels—as lawyers and other involved parties set up shop in the city.
In addition, tourism in the New Orleans area has been bolstered by promotion funding from BP, which gave the state of Louisiana $15 million last summer to deal with the damage caused to its seafood and tourism brand. New Orleans’ $5 million share of the fund was double the city’s normal tourism budget.
But many in the area feel that darker days are ahead for the area. With the moratorium on offshore oil drilling still ongoing, the oil field money won’t be there to support the service industries. And when BP’s payouts start to slow down and finally go away, it could be tough times economically.
Of course, the fishing and seafood industry in the Gulf is still hurting, in large part because of the persistent consumer perception that the shrimp and other fish are tainted either from the oil or from the dispersants used to clean up the spill, despite government assurances that it is safe to eat.
But it's some comfort to know that at least some businesses in the region are thriving, if only for a while.