HOUSTON—Tropical Storm Harvey has touched down in Houston, inundating the area and neighboring cities with increasing heavy rains and flooding. Weather forecasters are predicting a total of 50 in. of rainfall to the area—or possibly even more.
“Up to 40 in. of rainfall have fallen NE of Houston with another 20 in. possible before TS Harvey moves on. Listen to local emergency officials,” the National Weather Service tweeted on Monday morning.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation suspending state and local hotel and motel occupancy tax statewide for relief-effort personnel and victims of the storm, according to the Office of the Texas Governor. The suspension will last 14 days from the day the governor issued his 30-countywide disaster declaration.
“There is no doubt that Hurricane Harvey is creating a temporary housing emergency in the state of Texas,” said Abbott. “The state of Texas has a duty to ensure we are offering as much relief as possible to the victims, first responders and relief-effort personnel of this terrible storm. Reducing the cost of hotel accommodations is one part of that process. Those who have taken safety precautions by evacuating need not to be struggling with the cost of shelter during this already difficult time.”
Federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of Texas to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by Harvey from August 23, and continuing forward, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“This is a landmark event for Texas,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long in an interview with CNN. “Texas has never seen an event like this. Every number we put out right now is going to change in 30 minutes.”
During this time, hoteliers are taking action and providing shelter and support for those who need it.
Brands & Owners Assess Impact, Take Action
The Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center is doing what it can to contribute to Hurricane Harvey support efforts. The hotel’s housekeeping team has been going room to room gathering the sheets and towels. After laundering the linens, the team loaded up a truck headed for South Texas with hundreds of bagged premium linens.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts is monitoring the impact of Hurricane Harvey and assisting hotels in need of support. In order to help with relief efforts, the brand has made a $10,000 donation to the American Red Cross.
“Currently, each location is experiencing different circumstances and the needs of hotels vary, from dealing with no phone lines, no water, sewage and no power. With regards to occupancy, the majority of Best Western-branded hotels in the areas that were greatly impacted have closed. However, some of these hotels are re-opening, as weather conditions begin to improve,” said a Best Western spokesperson. “Best Western properties in the surrounding areas that were less impacted are welcoming emergency personnel and other guests who are re-locating as a result of the storm. As weather conditions continue to evolve, every hotel is taking it moment by moment.”
In terms of direct support to team members in the hard hit areas, Best Western shared there are a variety of departments that are in constant communication with hotels in the affected areas, helping to ensure they have the resources they need.
“These teams are informing hotels of disaster services, providing online and system support, assisting guests, suggesting alternative locations to find food, and recommending how to bring the hotels online with limited services,” a Best Western spokesperson said. “Most notably, these teams are making themselves available to the hotel ownership and management at all hours of the day for whatever needs arise, ensuring they have 24/7 support.”
Xenia Hotels & Resorts Inc. shared that preliminary physical inspections of its hotels directly impacted by Harvey have indicated no significant property damage. This includes its three hotels located in the Houston-area and one hotel located in Austin, TX. These hotels currently remain open and operating, though the company recognizes that the storm remains an ongoing threat and conditions may change at any time. Xenia is currently evaluating the financial impact from the storm and its ability to recover any lost income through insurance policies in place at the hotels.
“Our thoughts go out to the people and communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” said Marcel Verbaas, president and CEO of Xenia. “We continue to monitor the storm, but are confident in our hotel management teams’ abilities to take care of their employees and guests. We are assessing the financial impact to our business, but for now are focused on supporting the operating teams at our properties as they cope with this natural disaster.”
Marriott also released a statement: “Marriott International is closely monitoring Hurricane Harvey and the resulting storm’s potential impact on our hotels in its path. We have established hurricane plans and our hotel teams are prepared to implement these plans. In addition, we are in close contact with local authorities and, as always, will take guidance and direction from them. The safety and security of our guests and associates is always a top priority at Marriott.”
Local Hotels Lend Support, Reduce Rates
At the Austin Marriott South, one of more than 20 Austin-area hotels operated by White Lodging, evacuees from Victoria, Corpus Christi and Houston were occupying about 50 rooms Sunday, GM David Rowland said in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman. “We’ve softened the animal policy and the cancellation policy to be as flexible as possible,” Rowland said. “We’ve noticed the little things seem to really make a big difference.”
As hotels see increased demand for rooms, there were some in the region that still had space available on Sunday, according to the Statesman.
Local ABC TV news affiliate ABC13 reported local hotels were also offering discounted rates to those forced to evacuate due to the storm.
Hotel Derek in uptown Houston is offering $99 evacuation rates until Thursday, Aug. 31. The hotel will also waive pet fees for up to two animals. Guests should book with the code STORMY on the hotel’s website.
La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio is offering a special $119 rate through next week for evacuees. Proof of residency will be requested upon arrival to ensure a reduced rate.
Omni La Mansion del Rio in San Antonio is offering a $109 per night rate for singles or a $129 per night rate for doubles for evacuees. Proof of residency will be required upon check-in.