LA - Oil, Tourism, Seafood — All Hit in Louisiana COVID-19 Fight
Every Labor Day weekend, St. Mary Parish celebrates two industries at a tourist event with a seemingly improbable title: the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.
With a shrimp in a hard hat clinging to an oil derrick as its logo, the festival may the best example of how diverse economic interests mesh in south Louisiana — and how attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19 have visited a kind of triple economic whammy on the state.
A worldwide oil glut was pushing down prices even before the pandemic fight lowered energy demand, contributing to layoffs. Festival-driven tourism has dried up, meaning more lost jobs. And one major tourist draw — cuisine built around fin fish, shrimp, oyster and crabs — also is suffering.
"May is normally our busiest month, and it's terrible," said Harlon Pearce, owner of a seafood processing business in suburban New Orleans, where restaurants are limited to take-out service and major spring and summer festivals have been canceled. "You have Jazz Fest, you have French Quarter Fest, Mother's Day. It's a tough time. Us not having any of our major events this year for tourism is going to be a killer."