Katrina victims take on hurricane tour operators

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 11:47 am •  Published: October 4, 2012
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Yet she said no warning had been issued from the city's Taxicab Bureau, which regulates tour companies.

"A warning would have been nice," she said.

She noted that about 30 companies ply the neighborhood, charging tourists about $25 apiece.

Charbonnet said he believes there's room for compromise. He plans to gather tour guides and residents together Friday to begin discussing possible changes to the ordinance, proposals such as limiting bus sizes and requiring a single route to protect streets and the privacy of the residents.

"I feel confident that we will come up with a plan that will work for everybody," he said.

For now, many tour companies have halted tours of the neighborhood.

Ducote said his company still takes visitors elsewhere in the rebuilding city, including to the Musicians Village, a post-Katrina effort launched near the Lower 9th Ward by entertainers Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis.

Meanwhile, not all Lower 9th residents oppose the tour buses.

Some, like Sidney Williams, say they enjoy waving to tourists and selling homemade treats such as pralines, a popular New Orleans candy, as the buses wend through the neighborhood.

But the buses can be an inconvenience, some say.

"They just stop in the middle of the street, and you have to go around them," said Jadii Joseph, who lives in one of the Make It Right homes.

Wolken said she doesn't need the Lower 9th to show evidence of 2005 destruction. Tour buses are permitted in other areas bouncing back from Katrina. "But everybody wants to see the Lower 9th Ward," she said. "It's the most popular."

Kelly Schulz, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Katrina tours kept the tour companies in business in the storm's aftermath when travel to the city plummeted.

"These tours are important," Schulz said. "People come to New Orleans from all over the world, and they want to see the Lower 9th Ward just like visitors to New York want to see the site of the World Trade Centers. It's human nature. It's curiosity. We certainly need to be respectful and not cause more suffering, but seeing these areas in person brings needed attention."

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