The head of Baton Rouge’s hotel and lodging association says he anticipates that first responders who came from other states to assist with Louisiana flooding will return home by Sept. 10 when LSU has its first home game, freeing up space for football fans and others in area hotels that became fully occupied as a result of the recent disaster.
That is, unless a closely watched tropical disturbance affects Louisiana, says Ben Blackwell, president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association.
He says the storm could be a game changer that could require first responders from other states to stay in the Baton Rouge area and occupy local hotels.
“We will continue to need the first responders depending on the severity of the storm,” he says.
For now, Baton Rouge is in wait-and-see mode, Blackwell says.
Baton Rouge hotels typically see an increase in occupancy at the beginning of football season from visitors to the Capital City or from locals who enjoy football.
But with much of the city and its surrounding communities devastated from unprecedented flooding, the hotels are filled with people rebuilding their homes or providing relief.
“It’s very hard to find a room in Baton Rouge,” he says.
Paul Arrigo, Visit Baton Rouge president and CEO, says his organization is continuing to track hotel availability.
“The hotels are currently monitoring their reservations as best they can in order to accommodate their previous commitments. However, we hope to have a better idea by the middle of next week,” Arrigo says.
Blackwell says evacuees will not be kicked out of local hotels, which are trying to balance their existing reservations with the space they’re providing to displaced residents and first responders.
Businesses that made reservations in advance have shown they’re willing to work with area hotels by rescheduling reservations or working with the employees they already have on the ground here, he says.
The length of time evacuees stay in hotels depends on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ temporary housing plan unveiled earlier this week. The plan will make it possible for people to live at their residences while work is being done on them.
“That’s going to really help the situation,” says Blackwell, adding that the state has been in contact with the lodging association. “Once the emergency responders leave and people live and work at their house while they are getting repairs the rooms will go down drastically.”