Hotel rooms in the Baton Rouge area are filled with people fleeing from the path of Hurricane Laura.

Paul Arrigo, president and chief executive officer of Visit Baton Rouge, said Wednesday morning that he already suspected the hotel vacancy rate in East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension and East Feliciana parishes was less than 3{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c}.

“Baton Rouge is far enough away from where they are expecting considerable damage and close enough for contractors, roofers and energy companies,” he said.

Scott Michelet, president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association, said as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, all of the Baton Rouge hotels had been filled up by Laura evacuees, first responders and government employees.

Arrigo said there are 8,672 rooms in the Baton Rouge market, down from 9,006 in 2019 because some hotels are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re going from a very low occupancy to a very high occupancy in the last few days,” said Michelet, who serves as general manager of the Crowne Plaza Baton Rouge. “There were some hotels that closed temporarily (because of coronavirus); the ones that are open right now are at capacity. For Marco we prepared but did not see much since that storm dissipated. But on Monday the phones have been ringing.” The boost in the arm “will be short-lived but it does help,” he said.

The average occupancy rate was 52{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} last week, compared to 57{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} a year ago. 

Southwest Louisiana was bracing for a catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane Laura that was expected to lay waste to large swaths of the region, br…

While many of the evacuees have booked hotel rooms for Wednesday night, Arrigo expects they may end up spending several days in Baton Rouge.

“I’m not a weatherman, but tomorrow is supposed to be pretty gusty here, so I don’t know how many people will be returning back,” he said.

A similar situation happened in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. Evacuees booked hotel rooms, then weren’t willing to leave because they didn’t have a safe place to stay because of the devastating storm.

The one good thing is that Laura is hitting southwest Louisiana at a time when hotel rooms are readily available, Arrigo said. When the state was hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, hotels had to deal with an influx of customers along with their normal bookings.  

Hotel industry representatives said they saw some availability in Slidell and New Orleans on Wednesday but that rooms were going fast.

There were a handful of hotels in the Ascension Parish area and Hammond with some availability as of midday Wednesday, according to the booking hotel website Booking.com.

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