Thursday, December 15, 2005

'On your left: Total devastation...'

In an idea hatchery like the restaurant business, opposing an entrepreneurial endeavor is akin to disparaging Walter Cronkite. But a new venture arising from the wreckage of New Orleans is testing the boundaries of acceptability. Judgment may be particularly difficult for restaurants, given what they have at stake.

On first exposure, it’s easy to retch at the notion of busing tourists past totaled restaurants and homes too mold-infested to be inhabitable, at $35 a head ($28 for children, if the family wants to making an outing of it). The new hurricane-devastation tours include drive-by’s of the now-infamous Superdome and Convention Center. According to the Associated Press article that brought the new business to light, $3 of each ticket sale will be passed along to the charities serving Hurricane Katrina victims.

Better yet is the $32 of every adult ticket that will be injected into the local economy, which virtually lost its tourism underpinning when Katrina’s floodwaters burst through the levies. It may not be as high falutin as browsing through an art museum or restoring your soul with some jazz. But it’s tourism that leaves no one hurt, and plenty benefiting, from the hotels that house overnight tour guests, to the restaurants that feed them.

Besides, is it really that bad? Or any worse that touring the areas graveyards to take in the elaborate chambers that are built to keep bodies above the water table?

It may not be akin to the traveling King Tut exhibit, or a trek to the Louvres. But businesswise, it’s a masterpiece in its own right.

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