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Preparing for a Comeback

Comebacks don’t happen by chance. They happen by choice.

By the time this magazine reaches your mailbox, Hurricane Ida will be fading from memory. The news cycle will have moved on to something else. Armchair pundits on social media will have new issues to argue about.

The people of New Orleans, meanwhile, will be still doing the hard work of creating their comeback.

My first visit to New Orleans was in 2006, just short of a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. The historic size and destructive force of that storm reverberated through the area long after the floodwaters receded. When I visited, many buildings were still damaged, many homes were still vacant, and many locals still faced an uphill climb back to normalcy.

But here’s the strange thing: Despite the challenges the city was facing, I fell in love with New Orleans on that trip.

It’s been 15 years since my introduction to New Orleans, and I’ve enjoyed many return visits to the city and the surrounding area since then. Every time I go back, I find the destination bigger and better, more vibrant and more resilient. 

Locals who have been in New Orleans a long time still talk about Hurricane Katrina as a pivotal moment in their lives and the life of the city. But when they do, there’s a pride in their voices. Because despite the evacuation and chaos, they chose to come back.

As I write this, New Orleans is reeling again, walloped by Hurricane Ida. My heart goes out to all my tourism friends in the Crescent City and around the state. They have a long, hard road ahead of them. But I’m confident they’re going to come out on the other side. Because they’re not the kind of people who choose to give up. They come back. And when they do, the comeback is triumphant.

There’s a lesson here for those of us who don’t live in hurricane-prone areas. Challenges will strike us all at one point or another — for the tourism and travel communities, it feels like we’ve been riding out a hurricane for a year and a half now. But no matter how daunting those challenges are, they don’t have to be insurmountable. We always have the choice to mount a comeback.

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’re a church leader whose community has been battered by the pandemic, social unrest and political upheaval. Maybe you’re a travel professional who has endured cancellations, unemployment and deep uncertainty about the future. Perhaps you’re a travel planner who doesn’t know when you’ll be able to get your group to venture out on the road again.

Regardless of where you find yourself, though, know this: You can choose to make a comeback. It probably won’t be easy. There may not be a road map, and there will certainly be detours and obstacles along the way. Some people won’t understand what you’re doing, and there may be a few who say you’re a fool for trying. They’ll change their tune, though, when you come out on top.

 Like a waterfront city building back after a terrible storm, we all have our work cut out for us. But if you’re involved in travel, you’ve never been afraid of hard work.

So what do you say we roll up our sleeves and begin working on our comeback?

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.