Moran’s Marina, which combines a grocery store, a bait shop, a hotel and a fishing charter, has been slow going.
Christine Moran, who owns the business with her husband Chris, said they are seeing less than half of the clients they normally see this time of year as Hurricane Ida continues to wreak havoc.
“We are still in pain,” she said. “People come in and are completely shocked, or they don’t call because they think we just left. This is not at all what should be at this time in the summer.
Officials in Terrebonne and Lafourche acknowledge that tourism has declined since a Category 4 storm devastated the area almost 10 months ago. But the data they rely on most to estimate visitors and hotel occupancy distorts the picture because so many displaced residents and rescuers filled the rooms instead of ordinary tourists.
“So the numbers were very skewed in the fall due to Ida, and it really carried over to the beginning of this year,” said Cody Gray, CEO of Louisiana-based Cajun Bayou Tourism.
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Officials, as well as businesses that rely on tourism, say the hurricane has exacerbated hardships that began with the COVID pandemic in March 2020.
Billy Gaston of Cajun Man’s Swamp Tours in Gibson said government restrictions on gatherings and reduced travel around the world in the first year of the pandemic hit his business hard. He was just returning to normal when Ida struck.
“People didn’t travel to the area because of all the destruction, so I was locked down for a couple more months,” Gaston said.
He’s doing about one tour a day now, compared to three or four before COVID hit.
“So the number is not where it used to be, but I pay the bills,” Gaston said. “What’s really good is that I’m starting to see more people from France, Canada, Germany, Sweden and other countries.”
Marina Morana is also trying to get back to normal. By this time of year, Chris Moran’s charter fishing service is usually booked for at least 120 days during the summer. Now it’s down to 50.
“His charter fishing books are more open than I have ever seen,” said Christine Moran.
Ida blew the roof off their restaurant, which was temporarily replaced by a food truck that is still busy serving mostly hurricane relief crews and oil workers. To complicate matters further, about eight employees left after the storm, some of them moving away from the area.
As tourists book less, the Morans are considering cutting back. They renovate what they can and reopen part of the business to serve the customers that have become a tradition to visit each year.
“You don’t want to be forgotten, so you can’t afford to miss the season,” Kristin said. “If you miss the year people always did this weekend… there’s a new tradition – you don’t come back.”
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