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In the past 10 years, New Orleans has become a major urban tourism destination in the United States. A strong meetings and conventions market coupled with the attraction of the French Quarter, antebellum homes, and riverboats have helped make tourism the main engine of the New Orleans economy. The destination, whose image has been enhanced over the years by special events such as the 1984 World's Fair, Mardi Gras festivities, or Super Bowls, is well known to domestic as well as to international travelers. Travel intermediaries such as tour operators, travel agents, or meeting planners have often ranked New Orleans in the top three U.S. urban destinations. However, parallel to the growth of tourism, the city continues to experience significant social problems. Many people are still underprivileged in an area whose poverty rate remains the third highest of any major American city. In addition, Louisiana continues to rank very poorly nationally with respect to education and public health. These problems, left unattended for decades, have contributed to rising crime statistics in New Orleans. The purpose of this article is to describe how crime has affected the New Orleans tourism industry and to suggest strategies for combating the detrimental impacts of crime on tourism.
TOURISM AND CRIME
A growing body of literature has been documenting the relationship existing between tourism and events that affect visitors' safety or safety perceptions. An expected finding has been that "safety, tranquility and peace are a necessary condition for prosperous tourism . . . most tourists will not spend their hard earned money to go to a destination where their safety and well-being may be in jeopardy" (Pizam and Mansfeld 1996, p. 1). Indeed, the travel and tourism industry is very sensitive to crisis events that affect the political, socioeconomic, or natural environments. Examples of documented crises that have affected tourism include the 1989 San Francisco earthquake (Milo and Yoder 1991), terrorism in Europe (Brady and Widdows 1988), or political instability in China (Gartner and Shen 1992; Roehl 1990). The impact of crime on international tourism in southern Florida has also been discussed at length in the industry. Pizam, Tarlow, and Bloom (1997) have already approached the New Orleans tourism and crime situation in a comparative study of three destinations. These authors identified the following common problems with dealing with crime in the study areas: lack of finances, manpower shortages, lack of cooperation within the media, need for greater community cooperation, and poor record keeping of crime statistics. For a complete literature review on tourism and crime, the reader is referred to the book edited by Pizam and Mansfeld (1996).
From a marketing perspective, it is important for destinations to realize that crime and, more important, media coverage and the resulting perceptions of safety will have an effect on their image. Researchers have long known that the image of a destination is a critical factor in tourists' destination choice process. Perceptions or images of a particular destination held by potential visitors are known to have significant influences on the success of tourism. Shiebler, Crotts, and Hollinger (1996) reported that the 1992 Florida tourist murders generated considerable media attention and resulted in a significant decline of tourism. However, they pointed out that crime rates against nonresidents had declined at the same time. Indeed, perceptions become reality. One of a destination's marketing strategic objectives should be to monitor customers' perceptions and either to reinforce them or change them through the various elements of the marketing mix. One such example is reported in a study about the public relations efforts to promote a positive image of Miami (Tilson and Stacks 1997). Nonetheless, little research has been published about the appropriate …