Among the long list of questions that nobody seems to know the answer to in this public health crisis, one of the most pressing is, When we finally get the spread of the virus under control and stop losing lives, will we also cure the Covid Economy? There are not many people qualified to answer this question. Meet Steve Ceulemans.
Steve is originally from Belgium, where he got a degree in international business and management. After that, he got a Doctor of Science degree from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
You might well imagine that when Steve pursued these two very disparate avenues of academic study – business and tropical medicine – there were people who wondered if one would ever be able to use those two skillsets at the same time. Well, that time has arrived. As Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Health District, Steve Ceulemans is uniquely qualified to understand how this pandemic is undermining our economy.
Festival Fun Is Most Definitely Over
Remember the days before the Covid Economy? When you could go out to a restaurant? Or a bar? Or a music festival? In Louisiana, we have over 400 festivals every year. From the internationally renowned – like Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Festival International here in Lafayette – to unique local favorites like the Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, or the Rice festival in Crowley.
And then there’s the literally thousands of bars and restaurants across the state, with regional specialties like smoked meat in Ville Platte, boudin in Broussard, or the muffuletta in New Orleans. For now though, our Louisiana way of life has come to a grinding halt. It’s tough times for all of us, but especially for folks in businesses that rely on social gathering. Not just because they’re closed down, but also because of the uncertainty of what their businesses will look like when we get back to normal.
Gus Rezende owns seven food and drink establishments in Acadiana, including Tula Tacos and Central Pizza, and through his company, Social Entertainment, he’s the promoter of a handful of festivals, among them the Acadiana Poboy Festival. How is Gus positioning his businesses for re-opening, and is he getting and Federal help through the Cares Act?
In New Orleans the Party Is On Pause
New Orleans might not have invented the concept of partying, but the city has certainly perfected it. Before it became an alleged virus incubator, Mardi Gras in New Orleans was one of the most celebrated parties on earth. There are free parties every single night on Bourbon Street, and Frenchmen Street.
Even in the business world, New Orleans is known for socializing. Although conventions are meant to be places for doing business, there’s a reason Las Vegas and New Orleans are the country’s biggest convention destinations.
In New Orleans the worlds of tourism and conventions meet in the offices of an organization called New Orleans & Company – a city body that was formed by the recent combination of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of New Orleans & Company is Mark Romig. Mark has been a guest on Out to Lunch before, under happier circumstances. Back then we would never have imagined that we would be discussing the details of turning the New Orleans Convention Center into a hospital.
Photos by Jill Lafleur. Last week’s Covid Economy update is here.