Sally expected to bring slight increase in hotel guests, though not like Laura

    Local hotels are expecting a slight boost from evacuees fleeing the path of Tropical Storm Sally, which is expected to make landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 hurricane sometime late tonight.

    State officials ordered a mandatory evacuation over the weekend for those outside of New Orleans’ flood protection levees, sending some packing for higher ground in the Capital Region.

    “We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries,” says Scott Michelet, general manager of the Crowne Plaza, who also serves as president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association. “We haven’t seen too much movement yet but we’re expecting more today, depending on the path of the storm.”

    The added influx of guests, though not expected to be terribly significant, comes as Hurricane Laura evacuees and first responders are ending their stays in Baton Rouge. For nearly three weeks, they have kept local hotels at near full occupancy, according to Visit Baton Rouge President and CEO Paul Arrigo.

    In recent days, the numbers have started to drop slightly, though average occupancy topped 91% last week.

    “As things to our west open up more and come back on line, we’re seeing people relocate to hotels in that area so they can be closer to their homes and workplaces,” says Michelet, who began fielding calls at 4:30 a.m. Sunday. “That is to be expected.”

    Local hotels have welcomed the badly needed revenue that has come from the disaster events, though it’s not the way anyone wants to do business.

    “This is madness,” Michelet says.