Monday, June 25, 2007

IABC's perfect backdrop

Post Katrina New Orleans is a really sad city to see. I came to here to attend IABC's international conference but I also came as a cultural tourist. I wanted to see old men in fedoras blowing trumpets under the balustrade of the French quarters. My quintessential southern dream had always been to eat hunky ribs that were barbequed and then smothered in Cajun sauce and after feel the pulse of town by strolling through busy city
streets with the sound of jazz everywhere. Of course I knew Katrina had happened, but news of the city's recovery had fallen off the headlines. No news is sometimes good news but in this case it wasn’t.

Recovery from 2005s devastating storm remains slow and painful. On Sunday evening by 7:00 pm most of the jazz bars are closed, their padlocked doors a concrete reminder that half of the city's employees had to go elsewhere in search of jobs and a new life. Cab drivers report a devastating effect on the city’s convention business and tourism. A Sarajevo cabbie said his business was down by 75%. The number of city employees has also decreased, going from 6,000 to 3, 000 since Katrina. While Southern life always had its own particular slow crawl, in New Orleans the tempo has slowed to a slug.

Nadine Johnson, TDC's marketing specialist, a frequent visitor to New Orleans in the past and part of the TDC’s team at the conference said that the city which she loved visiting so much now made her feel depressed. Yet IABC never wavered in its commitment to host its annual conference here. I think that decision is to be applauded.

The session’s opening guest speaker Ton Sancton who recently returned to New Orleans from France to accept a position at Tulane University told IABC attendees that New Orleans was grateful to IABC. He was particularly happy that IABC attendees spent the better part of two days helping to rebuild some homes under the Habitat for Humanity programme. He was grateful for IABC’s business in a town that is so much in need of it.

But it thinks it the hundreds of IABC attendees who are here in New Orleans who should be grateful because this stark backdrop provides real opportunity. It provides us with exceptional examples of life’s continuity in the face of disaster. It provides us with real examples of leadership and teamwork both which will still be needed if this city is to be returned to its former self. It also reminds us that communication is a process and for the city to rise creative solutions must be thought of implemented and that US Government must still be held accountable if only to ensure that news of the city’s recovery never falls too far from the radar.

No comments: