This June, the Clean Show, the textile care industry’s largest exhibition returns to the Crescent city, two years later than originally planned. It will be staged at the New Orleans’ Morial Convention Centre from the 18th to 21st of the month.

The 2007 show was moved as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, but the city’s progress has been sure and steady and it is now ready to play host again.

During Katrina 1,577 people lost their lives as the levies, walled defences built to protect the city from flooding, gave way. When one saw the TV news at the time, the current state of recovery would have seemed almost impossible. For 95% of the city buildings, including the New Orleans’ police department headquarters, were either damaged or completely destroyed; 700 city vehicles were lost. Residential damage to the Orleans’ parish is put at £14billion.

It was three and a half weeks before the water levels were reduced through pumping 24 hours a day. Pre-Katrina, central New Orleans had a population of 478,000, of whom 300,000 have been able to return, but inevitably some people have moved on.

Total reconstruction of the surrounding area is estimated to require 25 – 30 years to complete.

The entire business community is behind the ongoing efforts to restore all New Orleans.

The election of President Obama was popular, but it is the new Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal who has inspired the city’s people. At 36, Jindal is the nation’s youngest Governor. In building Louisiana’s fresh start, he will focus on ethics, education, economic infrastructure and healthcare, and the city believes his policies will dramatically improve New Orleans’ image.

As a visitor, I could clearly appreciate the devastation that had been suffered from some of the scenes I saw, but in addition all the gas, water and sewage pipes below ground were destroyed.

Even then, it can be very difficult to understand how it all happened.

Every week sees further improvements. Just four months ago City Park re-opened, providing a welcome area of peace and tranquillity. The park is proud of its collection of live oak trees that attract silvery hanging strands of Spanish moss, which provide instant decoration. This airborne moss only survives in clean air areas, proving the high air quality in this part of the city.

Though the lower 9th ward is still an area of mass destruction, the “Make it Right” campaign, led by actor Brad Pitt has already completed the first of many contemporary style, eco-friendly dwellings. Gloria Guy, 68, the first resident, moved in just in time for Thanksgiving. Each unit costs $100,000 to build and equip, and Pitt, a resident of New Orleans, is leading the drive to raise as many donations as he can, both large and small.

The Global Green Holy Cross project complements Pitt’s work and aims to provide energy-efficient homes. Five houses have been planned and the project will also include an 18-unit apartment building and a community centre.

Slowly and surely New Orleans is recovering and has clearly learnt from the experience of Katrina. The Big Easy lives on, better equipped for future threats. In September 2008, Hurricane Gustav prompted the evacuation of 30,000 people in less than 24 hours.

City evacuation is now mandatory and “vertical shelters” such as hotels and other high rise buildings will no longer be allowed to remain open and provide refuge. Fortunately Gustav caused little damage, and residents were quickly able to return.

I was invited to Crescent city in December 2008 by the New Orleans’ Metropolitan Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, in conjunction with Riddle & Associates, organiser of Clean ’09. I saw the city, and the convention centre, and was able to judge for myself how the business and tourist areas of New Orleans have been resurrected.

New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718, and remained in French hands until 1762 when the Spanish arrived. During Spanish rule, the city burnt down and was rebuilt twice. In 1803 France again assumed control, and even after the long Spanish rule, French continued to be spoken. New Orleans often seems like part of Europe, transplanted to the USA.

Most visitors to New Orleans will arrive at Louis Armstrong International Airport. Bright and modern, the airport provides easy transit and visitors can reach the downtown area quickly by taxi, limousine or shuttle bus.

This was my third time in New Orleans, and I stayed at the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, where UTSA, one of the show’s sponsors will have its headquarters. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the hotel offers splendid views over the city. My immediate reaction on arriving was that little seemed to have changed and then only for the better.

The immediate area, including all of the French Quarter, appeared cleaner. I discovered that the city had awarded a new street cleaning contract costing three-times the old one, and the improvement is clear.

The city was also more vibrant than ever and while Christmas decorations were muted, Canal Street had its long line of palm trees, each with white fairy lights from the top of the trunk to the bottom, creating a remarkable jewelled effect.

New Orleans is world famous for its jazz, its food, its architecture and its legendary French Quarter.

In 1891, New Orleans barber Buddy Bolden blew a few hot notes on his cornet and invented a form of music that’s remained an American favourite and has spread across the world. Preservation Hall on St Peter Street and Snug Harbor on Frenchmen Street are the venues for the city’s best jazz.

Last year New Orleans was named the best city for dining in the USA. It has 970 restaurants in the metropolitan area. Seafood features strongly in the city’s cuisine and Louisiana is the source for much of the seafood eaten in the USA.

I can recommend some of the specialities. Gumbo is New Orleans’ and South Louisiana’s signature Creole dish. This spicy soup-like dish, served with rice, was invented by Caribbean born chefs and the Native American filé (ground sassafras leaves) is its essential spice. In southern Louisiana it is based on shellfish and sausage, while in the North it has a lighter base, using venison and duck.

Jambalaya, is the New Orleans’ answer to Spain’s paella, and features sausage, seafood and spices.

I much enjoyed the beignets, a New Orleans’ favourite and a Creole speciality. These are square pastries, sprinkled with icing sugar. My own choice would be those served by Cafe Du Monde on Decatur Street, established in 1862, which is open 24 hours.

New Orleans is also famous for its architecture, and has 35,000 buildings on its historic register, more even than Washington, which comes second with 20,000.

The French Quarter, the heart of New Orleans’ original city, combines old-world charm with strong French and Spanish influences. With classic hotels, fine dining, music venues, antique shops and art galleries, the French Quarter represents the spirit of New Orleans.

The New Orleans’ streetcar is the world’s oldest continuously operating electric street railway, or tram car. It has gone through various styles, steam train, horse drawn vehicle and the electric version, which was introduced in 1893. Now more than 20,000 people a day ride the 35 original electric cars – all named in the Register of Historic Places. Only in New Orleans can you ride to an historic place, in an historic place.

When I visited, the Mardi Gras festival was in the final stages of preparation for the 2009 event – 6 January – 24 February.

This seven week celebration involves floats, a masked ball, and ends in the “fat Tuesday” that gives the festival its name. Preparations take a year and visitors can see the artists at work on the floats and figures at Mardi Gras World, operated by Blaine Kern.

The New Orleans’ Metropolitan Convention & Visitors’ Bureau (NOMCVB) has worked tirelessly to re-establish the city as a business and tourist destination. Visitor numbers have steadily increased from 3.7m in 2006 to 7.1m in 2007.

The New Orleans’ Morial Convention Centre, home of Clean ’09 has spent $62m on refurbishment. The interior was completed in November 2006 and a further $2 – 3m is presently being spent on work such as cleaning the exterior of the centre and landscaping the grounds. This will have been completed well before Clean ’09.

The show will occupy halls B, C, D, E and F – total gross area of 581,000ft2. The Clean Show is particularly demanding in its venue requirements. It is the only show in the USA to use steam and also requires large volumes of compressed air, extensive electrical cabling and gas connections. According to Michael O’Rourke, project manager of Trade Show Plumbing Co, Clean presents more challenges than any of the 1,000 plus trade shows in which he is involved. The steam requirement means that only New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas can stage the event.

New Orleans is now ready to undertake the Clean Show’s mammoth requirements in style. It is a special city for both the business visitor and the tourist. Certainly I recommend that you visit Clean ’09 and take the opportunity to enjoy all that New Orleans has to offer.