Back to Business For Some Hotels After Hurricanes Irma, Harvey

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—It’s not business as usual for many hoteliers left smarting from the catastrophic damage left in the wakes of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Here’s an update on where some properties stand.

Look for the Helpers

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey had devastated parts of southeast Texas, John Ferguson, founder of Ferguson Development in Liberty, MO, called his friend and business partner, Lew Wiens, chairman and CEO of True North Hotel Group in Overland Park, KS, and said, “Let’s do this.” And from there, the ball started rolling. In just four days, Ferguson’s idea to send essential items for Harvey flood victims in the Houston area snowballed into a joint effort between the two partners that also included Ferguson Hotel Development,  True North Hotel Group, Kansas City’s Gary Crossley Ford, BRR Architects, Teamsters Local #56 in Kansas City and Teamsters Local #120 in Minneapolis.

The result was a gift of two 18-wheelers delivered to a Houston warehouse on Sept. 13 by four Teamsters who drove the trucks from Minneapolis and Kansas City. The items will be distributed to Harvey victims through the Salvation Army. “Harvey victims didn’t ask for this. We’re all Americans, and I would hope someone would do this for me,” said Ferguson.

The Westin Jekyll Island, a property managed by New Castle Hotels and Resorts, remained opened for state police and the National Guard as the island was evacuated. The property lost power but operated with generators and the hotel’s chef prepared three meals a day for the people who remained. Some staff stayed at the hotel with their families.

“We knew we were going to have a few associates staying at the hotel, so extending hospitality to first responders and emergency personnel was an easy decision to make,” said Kevin Runner, GM, Westin Jekyll Island. “It helps our small community get on its feet more quickly, and it’s the right thing to do. Everyone feels helpless in these situations, so we’re glad that we were able to contribute something to the effort.”

The Palm Beach Post reported that amid Hurricane Irma, friendships were formed among guests and staff in Jupiter, FL.  In addition, there have been acts of generosity and heroism. Marriott International chartered a ship from the Dominican Republic and coordinated with layers of authorities for permission for the ship to land and evacuate as many guests as possible, according to Forbes. And a Best Western Plus in Lewisville, TX donated nearly every piece of furniture it had.


Hotels Reopen, Assess Impact

An update from Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc. revealed that after preliminary inspections, the company’s hotels in the path of Hurricane Irma did not sustain any significant damage with a few properties sustaining minor damage. All of the company’s properties are open and operating. The affected hotels in Florida represented approximately 13% of the firm’s year-to-date hotel EBITDA through the second quarter, according to the REIT.

“Our hearts go out to the families and communities that have been impacted by Hurricane Irma and we remain supportive in the recovery effort,” said Douglas A. Kessler, Ashford Trust’s president and CEO. “We believe our proactive asset management and the efforts of our hotel property managers enabled us to keep all hotels operational, mitigate damage, and position affected hotels for remediation work.”

Ashford Trust continues to assess the full impact of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, and all of its properties have comprehensive property, casualty, flood and business interruption insurance, subject to a maximum $10-million deductible. The company believes no damage will exceed coverage caps, and will provide additional updates in the event of any material changes.

Xenia Hotels & Resorts Inc. has shared that its hotels in Orlando, FL, Atlanta and Savannah, GA, Birmingham, AL, and Charleston, SC, did not experience any significant property damage as a result of Hurricane Irma. Each of the company’s eight hotels in these markets is currently open and operating.

The 120-room Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa located in Key West, FL, is currently closed. The resort’s employees and guests were evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma making landfall, according to Xenia. The company is currently unable to provide further updates regarding the property’s physical condition or when it is expected to reopen, as it will be performing a complete assessment as soon as circumstances allow. Xenia’s corporate office located in Orlando, FL, did not sustain any significant damage and is fully operational.

As it relates to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, further inspections of the company’s Houston and Austin hotels confirmed that none of the hotels experienced significant property damage, and all four hotels in these markets are open and operating.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the people in all locations impacted by these two destructive storms,” said Marcel Verbaas, president and CEO of Xenia. “We are very proud of the efforts the hotels have put forth to cater to the needs of guests and associates, as well as to the communities in which they are located.”

Major hotel brands are continuing to monitor the impact of the hurricanes on properties in the impacted areas. Marriott International’s management teams are evaluating the status of the hotels and working closely with local authorities as needed.

“We express our appreciation for the efforts of local police, emergency responders and other officials in supporting the community,” said a brand spokesperson. “To date, there have been no reports of storm-related injuries to employees or guests at our hotels. While most of our hotels are open, some hotels in the affected areas have sustained damage. Efforts are underway to fully restore operations but some hotels may have temporary interruption or limited availability of guest services.”

Hotels Reopen in the Caribbean

According to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, the majority of hotels and resorts throughout the islands of the Bahamas are operating as usual or are expected to reopen on their regularly scheduled dates.

Hotels on Nassau and Paradise Island were not damaged. Atlantis, Paradise Island, Baha Mar Resort and Casino, Breezes Bahamas, Melia Nassau Beach Resort, One&Only Ocean Club and Warwick Paradise Island are among the hotels open and hosting guests. Also, Grand Bahama hotels are expected to reopen today, including Grand Lucayan, Pelican Bay Hotel and Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach.

A detailed report released by New York-based Ovation Vacations shows the travel firm has about $18 million in displaced business mostly from St. Barts and Anguilla.

“The good news is that most of the Caribbean came out of Irma unscathed,” said Jack S. Ezon, president, Ovation Vacations. “We have placed nearly $1 million this week in business to alternative Caribbean destinations such as Cayman, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos and others.”

Ezon is advising clients to wait until the end of this week to see where things fall after further investigation. “Indeed, as you know the situation is still very raw with so many of our dear friends without water or electricity,” he said. “Some of the philanthropic efforts we have heard are heartwarming, and we are working on our own philanthropic investigation, as so many people want to help but unsure how.”