Closing cemetery to tourists will damage industry

Hannah Orr, Staff Writer

The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

St. Louis No. 1 cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans, may be closed to visiting tourists who are not part of a tour group beginning March 1. This decision may bring negative repercussions to New Orleans’ tourism. 

According to a January 26th article in NOLA.com| The Times Picayune, the Archdiocese of New Orleans is seeking to put fairly heavy restrictions on visitors to St. Louis No. 1 because the cemetery has experienced repeated instances of vandalism and seen the presence of unlicensed tour guides bringing people through the cemetery for high fees. Since St. Louis No. 1 is the resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, it receives a large amount of traffic, and tombs are often defaced. Laveau’s tomb is the most susceptible to this vandalism, some of which has caused actual damage to the tomb’s infrastructure.

St. Louis No. 1 is located directly across from the French Quarter, a location that receives a lot of traffic from not only tour groups, but individual tourists as well. Many of the most popular tourist spots in New Orleans are the cemeteries that the city is famous for. Taking away access to one of the most famous ones is likely to put many tourists in an unhappy situation, and they may refuse to pay fees to tour the cemetery.

Tour companies will have to pay a yearly premium, which is not completely unreasonable, but the smaller companies that do not frequently tour the cemetery will have to pay a $40 fee each time they wish to have access, and must register with the Archdiocese as well. This will put the smaller companies at a severe disadvantage because they will have to go through the registration and payment process separately each time they wish to bring a group to St. Louis No. 1. 

Closing off St. Louis No. 1 does not have to occur as strictly as the Archdiocese has planned. If there were a screening process for tour guides bringing groups in, the whole cemetery would not need to be monitored. Only those bringing in large groups of people should be screened. Individuals in a large group who have just heard about the Marie Laveau superstition — putting three X’s on her grave to make a wish come true — from their tour guide are more likely to mark the tomb than several wandering tourists. 

This historic cemetery should not be off-limits to tourists. It is a landmark and an important tourist spot, and restricting it to tour groups only will severely cut back the number of tourists willing to go. In keeping St. Louis No. 1 open to the public, the tourist trade will be kept alive, and screening for tours can always take place as an alternative. 

Hannah Orr is a freshman in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]