Online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz are no doubt feeling the pinch more than most online retailers. Not only must they cope with a deluge of calls from customers who had booked trips to the Gulf Coast and now want their money back, they must also face up to the possibility of a slump in sales as some vacationers and business executives deterred from flying to New Orleans drop their travel plans altogether.

"It's the 19th-most-popular destination for Labor Day," said Joel Frey, a Travelocity spokesman. "And there really isn't anything comparable to the city to offer as an alternative."

With Mardi Gras just six months away and recovery estimates for the city still cloudy, agencies cannot even be sure that one of the prime travel events of February will occur.

"Our main concern is just dealing with the group of travelers who've made plans to travel to the area," said Frey, the Travelocity spokesman. "But there will be long-term implications that every travel agency will have to address."

Get the full story at the International Herald Tribune