Before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August, the travel industry in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama accounted for $18.3 billion in business annually, with some 260,000 tourism-related jobs representing 18 percent of the states' economies. At press time, PricewaterhouseCoopers was estimating that as many as 40,000 rooms would be out of service for weeks, if not for months. It will obviously be a long time before the region recovers. In the meantime, many travel companies have pitched in with relief efforts.
• The family behind New Orleans' Commander's Palace restaurant began the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund (www.ghcf.org) to benefit restaurant and hotel workers who lost their jobs.
• Continental pledged tickets to any registered evacuee and pet; as of Sept. 14, the airline had donated 1,700 trips. Aeromexico gave all Mexicans in the Gulf Region free trips to Mexico City. United and American awarded 500 frequent-flier miles to each customer who donated $50 to the Red Cross.
• Some Houston hotels, such as the Hyatt Regency, offered special rates and bent the rules (even allowing pets) to accommodate guests from the hurricane-ravaged regions in the weeks following the storm.
• Many Houston attractions—such as the Zoo, the Museum of Natural Science, and the Museum of Fine Arts—gave free admission to Gulf Coast residents for several weeks.
• When all large conventions scheduled in New Orleans were canceled through March 2006, other U.S. cities, including Chicago, Dallas, and Las Vegas, offered their facilities to meeting planners.
• The Travel Industry Association of America is providing free use of a job bank (www.katrinajobs.org) to help hotel, restaurant, and casino workers displaced by the hurricane find new jobs in other parts of the country.
• The American Gaming Association (www.americangaming.org) set up a fund for casino employees from Mississippi and Louisiana. Harrah's, which had three casinos in the affected region, and MGM Mirage, which will rebuild the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, continued to pay salaries and health care benefits to all employees.