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Ramping Up Relief Efforts

Hotels Step Up As Hurricane Dorian Wreaks Havoc On The Bahamas

Wednesday, September 04, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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As consumers and travelers we generally view hotels as comfortable retreats and an integral part of our vacation getaways, but this week they represent so much more as Hurricane Dorian moves past The Bahamas and heads toward Florida and the U.S. coastline.

The slow moving storm--which was the second strongest Atlantic storm on record--has been downgraded to a Category 2. The storm is now on track to possibly reach the Carolinas by Thursday, at least according to the latest computer models and fortunately it seems to be weakening considerably. However, much of the damage has been done, so to speak. U.N. officials say more than 60,000 people in The Bahamas will need food, and the Red Cross says 62,000 people need clean drinking water.

The island of Grand Bahama was hit the hardest as the Category 5 hurricane remained in the area for most of the day with sustained winds as high as 180 miles per hour. Just to the east, on the Abaco Islands thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. The prime minister attributed the five deaths to those islands as the initial damage was described as “unprecedented and extensive,” according to The New York Times.

Hotels become critical places of refuge during these extreme weather events and their importance to the local community can not be understated. Fortunately, many hoteliers have acknowledged this and have taken a proactive approach when it comes to community outreach.

For example, while the hurricane seems to have taken a turn up the coast and away from Florida, Rosen Hotels & Resorts--which operates some eight Orlando area hotels—has offered up special distress rates of $59 and waived all cancellation and pet fees. The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association--comprised of 10,000 restaurant and hotels across the Sunshine State—likewise issued a statement urging members to waive cancellation fees, as well as “extending hospitality to pets by relaxing any pet restrictions they may have.”

Meanwhile, the Grand Lucayan Resort and Casino on Grand Bahama was operating as a refuge after many of the buildings originally designated as shelters in the nearby city of Freeport were damaged. Throughout the day, rescue teams brought in families seeking sanctuary in the hotel’s ballrooms, convention center and guest rooms. Michael Scott, Chairman of the government owned beachfront hotel, called the storm “apocalyptic and a truly cataclysmic event,” according to The New York Times.

According to CNN, renowned chef Jose Andres--who runs the nonprofit World Central Kitchen--stated that before the hurricane hit hotel owners in The Bahamas pledged to be part of the hotel relief effort. Many owners extended the opportunity to use their hotel kitchens to serve food to those in need.

CNN further noted that The Atlantis Bahamas confirmed on Twitter on Tuesday that it's working with Andres, World Central Kitchen and the Bahamas Red Cross to provide relief to residents impacted by Dorian.

According to CBSnews.com, Andres and his team of about a dozen people from World Central Kitchen are aiming to deliver 30,000 meals daily to the Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands.

Closer to home, both Hilton and Marriott released similar statements noting they were tracking the path of the storm and that hotels potentially impacted were implementing preparation protocols. They also created toll-free numbers to provide consumers additional information on individual hotels.

Regardless of the path of Dorian for the remainder of this week, we know this is really just start of “the season” and there is very likely more to come. Nevertheless, it’s always good to see hotels stepping up and displaying the true meaning of hospitality, even at the expense of their bottom line. I think we can all agree that the only bottom line that matters right now is the safety and well being of the people in these affected areas.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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