NATIONAL REPORT—Hospitality knows no bounds. Just take a look at the outpouring of support from hoteliers and hotel brands in the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation as it touched down in Houston and the Gulf Coast, leaving 53 dead and catastrophic destruction to homes and businesses. As the waters recede, some residents and business owners—including hoteliers—are beginning to survey the damage and continuing to lend a helping hand. Also, Houston’s mayor said many of the city’s businesses will reopen today.
Here’s a look at organizations that are supporting relief efforts and what you can do to help now:
On a Mission
On the local level, hotels in hard hit areas can sign up to help victims of Harvey. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has activated the Emergency Lodging Assistance (ELA) program in Texas, according to Tom McCasland, director of housing and community development for the City of Houston. ELA provides prompt lodging payments for the short-term stays of pre-qualified individuals from designated disaster areas. Hotels in the Houston area can help by signing up to participate as a lodging partner. He noted that the GRB Red Cross shelter is still in need of volunteers; they must be at least 18 years of age. Click here to sign up for a volunteer shift.
Hotels for Hope is working to rally the hotel industry to aid victims of Harvey. The Austin, TX-based organization provides hotel brokerage services to conferences and large groups through a philanthropic business model that contributes $2 for every room night stay to charitable organizations that seek to help children live happier and healthier lives. It is partnering with hoteliers across the country and asking the hotels to donate basic living necessities to distribute to those in need—hygiene products, clothes, linens, food and drinks, items for children, furniture and pet supplies.
Hoteliers Helping Others
Sunil Tolani, CEO of Irvine, CA-based Prince Organization, reached out to Hotel Business magazine to help him let others know that he is offering complimentary rooms for three to five nights for displaced victims of the storm at his Nacogdoches Inn & Suites (formerly a Quality Inn & Suites that’s being converted to a Red Roof Inn & Suites) at 3400 South St. in Nacogdoches, TX, which is two hours from Houston. He wrote to tell us he has 80-100 rooms available, but is willing to offer his other locations in Dallas, Austin, Louisiana and Mississippi if need be.
“This is our tenth year in hospitality and we are feeling blessed,” Tolani said. “If there’s a little bit we can do, we are for it… It is moments like these that the power of our hospitality is most needed… This is what we do best in hospitality.”
Wynn Resorts has donated a total of $7.5 million to those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the typhoon in Macau, China.
“It is a very sad and tragic coincidence that in two major cities where we have our employees and customers—Macau, in the People’s Republic of China, and Houston—tragedy struck within a few days of each other,” said Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts. “In Macau, our employees’ homes have been damaged and their lives have been interrupted; many of them have suffered. So, too, have our customers who were caught in the grip of the typhoon. In the United States, in the state of Texas, many of our customers and business associates have experienced the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”
Wynn added, “These events, 8,000 miles apart, have affected the lives of our employees and our friends in both cities, and we have felt compelled to help in some small way. Therefore, we have dedicated $7.5 million dollars to the aid of Macau and to aid in the relief of the disaster in Texas. We are proud to join the citizens of both countries who demonstrated their compassion and neighborly affection for the unfortunate souls struck by this natural disaster.”
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.
Marriott International and The J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation are each contributing $250,000 to the American Red Cross, for a total contribution of $500,000, to assist those communities and individuals impacted by the hurricane. In addition, members of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards loyalty programs have the option of donating points as contributions to the American Red Cross.
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) has formed the Hurricane Harvey Complimentary Room Night Coalition. The organization is asking hoteliers in Texas who are able to offer complimentary rooms for three to five nights to displaced hurricane victims to fill out a form so the association can help spread the word.