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Steve Chiotakis: Maybe there’s a little tomato in all that jumbalaya going down on this Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras means carnival time in New Orleans, Mobile and other Gulf Coast cities. In the Big Easy, tourism’s been a bright spot since Hurricane Katrina. But the strong winds of the economic fallout are blowing some tougher times in. Here’s Kate Archer Kent.
Kate Archer Kent: New Orleans hotels were almost full in the run-up to Fat Tuesday.
Mary Beth Romig is spokesperson for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. She says the city stands to make up to $5 billion of hospitality revenue this year.
Mary Beth Romig: We are looking at a city that’s pretty recession-proof as far as tourism is concerned. There is no price of admission to Mardi Gras. And I think people are seeing that they can come and they can have a great time.
Still, the credit crunch is squeezing the city.
Mtumishi St. Julien heads up the Finance Authority of New Orleans. He says homeowners are struggling to get loans to rebuild, and payouts from the state aren’t stretching as far.
Mtumishi St. Julien: We have many, many people who received funds that are finding because of the higher costs of construction are insufficient to complete the renovation on their houses.
But St. Julien says all the belt-tightening can’t stop the Big Easy from doing what comes naturally: letting loose.
I’m Kate Archer Kent for Marketplace.
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