VCPORA’s Documentary Project
Wasted: Overtourism and the French Quarter
“It’s a fragile industry. It seems to me that we should be thinking about how to plan for better tourism stability, growth, and how that tourism interacts with our culture.”
– Ann Masson, French Quarter resident and Architectural Historian
Check out our “shorts,” or 5-minute concept clips:
In New Orleans, this can be translated to an imbalance of residents and visitors that threatens historic architecture, strains infrastructure, exacerbates income inequality, and tears at the local culture and way of life, all of which ultimately affect the visitors’ enjoyment of the destination. Venice, Italy is perhaps the most recognizable example — yet the ratio of visitors to residents is five times higher in the French Quarter.
In early 2020, we began exploring the concept of documenting residents of the French Quarter to archive their experience of living in a high-tourism historic neighborhood. Not long after these initial discussions, the unimaginable happened. The COVID-19 global pandemic shut down travel worldwide, and cities dependent on visitor’s dollars were hit harder than most.
We shifted our focus and opted to tell a different story. VCPORA, in partnership with filmmaker Laura Cayouette, is producing a feature-length documentary film depicting the phenomenon of overtourism (Yes – Overtourism!) in the French Quarter leading up to the Coronavirus pandemic and exploring strategies to help shape a more sustainable path beyond the economic fallout.
But, we need your help! Like any new project, it takes resources to get it to the finish line. Please watch our 5-minute concept pieces above and DONATE to the film. Thanks to a generous donation from VCPORA board member, Dr. Travis Kenny, your dollars will be matched, 1 for 1, this summer. That means your donation will count for double, so please give now!
What happens when a city, completely dependent on tourism dollars, shuts down overnight?
What lessons can be learned?
Wasted: Overtourism and the French Quarter examines New Orleans’ dependence on an unstable industry, vulnerable from everything from disease to climate changes, and examines opportunities for the pendulum to swing back to a sustainable model that prioritizes diversification of the local economy, a residential resurgence, and safeguarding cultural authenticity. These concepts will be explored through the lens and real life experiences of French Quarter residents, business owners, preservationists, and culture bearers.
What this documentary will explore
The world-renowned French Quarter, or Vieux Carré, distinctive by its architecture, unique shops, restaurants, musicians, artists, and colorful residents, faces challenges like short term rentals, aging infrastructure, crowding and sanitation issues.
The state of Louisiana earns nearly $19 billion annually in tourism dollars. Of those dollars 53% come from New Orleans – and most of those dollars come from the French Quarter. The historic Vieux Carré, quite literally, supports the entire state’s economy.
The COVID pandemic, once again, exposed the dangers of relying too heavily on tourism in a world facing climate disasters, terrorism attacks, disease, and other travel-disruptors.
The delicate ecosystem of the French Quarter is home to the most unique blend of cultural contributions in the world and is an irreplaceable treasure chest of cuisine, music, and traditions constantly threatened by commodification.
Whether they’re maintaining a historic home or parading through the streets, the people of New Orleans are the tourist attraction, and their voices must be counted in order to find a sustainable path forward.
Our growing Cast of Characters
- Louis Sahuc, longtime resident, photographer, and gallery owner on Jackson Square (recently deceased)
- Harry Shearer and Judith Owen, residents, entertainers, musicians, and activists
- Derrick Tabb, Grammy-winning snare drummer of Rebirth Brass Band, CNN Hero, and The Roots of Music founder
- Amy Stelly, nationally-recognized urban planner, designer and visual artist, and former Board President of VCPORA
- Ann Masson, longtime resident of the French Quarter, preservationist, and a well-respected architectural historian for Tulane University (lifetime preservationist, leading FQ preservationist)
- Dianne Honoré Destrehan, tour guide, local historian, cultural bearer and preservationist, and cofounder of Unheard Voices of Louisiana focusing on “teaching our culture and our history of Louisiana, not just New Orleans.”
- Amarys Herndon, Jordan Herndon, and Andrew Principe, chefs and owners of Palm & Pine restaurant on Rampart Street, endured a nexus of disasters (Hard Rock Collapse, pandemic, Ida) yet have remained open