INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Hurricane Dorian has already hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, and is moving away from Puerto Rico, which avoided the worst of the storm. It is now headed toward the Bahamas, and is expected to hit Florida as a potential category 4 storm on Monday.
As part of its continuing coverage, Hotel Business is tracking Dorian’s effect on the hospitality industry in the hurricane’s path.
Floridians Prepare for Dorian
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) has issued the following statement from Carol Dover, president/CEO, regarding Hurricane Dorian:
“As Floridians brace for Hurricane Dorian, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association has begun work to help members, residents and visitors alike prepare for the storm and its aftermath. Members of FRLA staff are part of the official response at the State Emergency Operations Center and staff ESF-18 alongside our private sector partners to assist in response and recovery. Although Floridians are accustomed to storms, it’s important to ensure that we take the threat of Dorian seriously, prepare accordingly and heed all emergency orders.
FRLA has asked members to prioritize safety in a variety of ways beyond basic storm preparation. We encouraged members to waive cancellation fees as the storm approaches as our primary goal is always the safety of visitors, and we want to keep them out of harm’s way. Additionally, we have urged all members to extend hospitality to pets by relaxing any pet restrictions they may have. Many people are reluctant to leave their feathered and furred friends behind, and some will refuse to leave unless they can bring their pets with them. We hope that relaxed restrictions and pet-friendly accommodations will help motivate those in the path of the storm to heed evacuation warnings.
We are directing members and travelers in the Sunshine State to Visit Florida’s Now page for the most up-to-date information regarding the storm, as well as accommodations availability via a partnership with Expedia. To help after the storm, FRLA asks members to register with FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, which provides short-term lodging assistance to evacuees who cannot return home immediately following a disaster.
FRLA will continue to monitor the storm and stands ready to assist members, residents and visitors however we can before, during and after Hurricane Dorian.”
George E. Glover, CEO of Tampa-based BayStar Hotel Group LLC, with hotels that stretch from Orlando to St. Petersburg, said that his properties are prepared. “Most of the brands have done an excellent job of providing emergency event preparation guidelines, including mandatory annual training (IHG),” he said. “Additionally, BayStar Hotel Group has a checklist for various events. Comfort and safety of our guests and associates is key—and preparation touches each member of the hotel team. We’ll hold back some rooms for staff accommodations, order in extra provisions for F&B, and make sure we have ancillary supplies to cover three to five days.”
He said that room inventory management is important. “One of our hotels has a large sports tournament in-house over Labor Day weekend,” he said. “Consequently, we’re showing no availability as people try to reserve rooms inland out of Dorian’s current path. We’re constantly in contact with the group to advise of individuals who may cancel and determining what the tournament direction will be—which may then free up vacant rooms for others. We’ll reach out to power companies, EMT first responders, police and fire department seeking their needs—they will sometimes have vehicles staged at the hotel.”
Gayle MacIntyre, a spokesperson for hotel management company Crestline Hotels & Resorts, with 10 properties in Florida, released the following statement to Hotel Business: “Crestline is monitoring the storms direction and following the lead of local authorities and taking any recommended precautions, but no hotel closings are planned at this time.”
Marriott International also released a statement on the hurricane: “We are closely monitoring the path of Hurricane Dorian, and our hotels in the predicted path have implemented storm preparation protocols. We are in close contact with local authorities, and will take guidance and direction from them as the situation warrants. We encourage those planning to travel to the storm area to check news updates for the most current information, and amend plans accordingly. Hotels in the impacted area are reviewing their cancellation fees; details may vary by hotel.”
Potential Impact on Labor Day Profits
Bob Davis, president/CEO of the Lodging and Hospitality Association of Florida’s Volusia County, already is seeing Hurricane Dorian’s impact on local hospitality businesses as severe weather reaches the area. “Cancellations are coming in daily in the droves,” Davis said to a reporter with ClickOrlando.com.
In Palm Beach County, residents and business owners are on watch. There have been some area hotels experiencing cancellations, according to Palm Beach County Tourism Development Council Executive Director Glenn Jergensen. “We’re watchful,” said Jergensen to The Palm Beach Post. “We’re hopeful it skirts and heads out to sea and none of Florida is impacted.”
Paloma Matador, an administrative assistant at Ocean Landings Resort, said there have been a few cancellations, but many rooms remain booked, according to FloridaToday, a division of the USA Today Network. “Not that many are canceling,” Matador said. “A lot of them are waiting it out.”
Raed Alshaibi, manager of the DoubleTree Suites hotel on Melbourne Beach, told FloridaToday that the hotel has not seen many cancellations. “The media is making it a little more than it really is,” Alshaibi said. “Hopefully, it will die down before it reaches shore.”
Properties Stepping Up to Lend a Hand
Florida-based Rosen Hotels & Resorts is offering distress rates to guests, opening the doors of its eight Orlando-area hotels with special distress rates for those affected by Hurricane Dorian. The company is working diligently to assist evacuees seeking a safe home away from home. The hotels will provide free WiFi and are pet-friendly, with no additional pet fee with the distress rate, according to the company’s website.
“We have done this for years and continue to do it because, simply speaking, it is the right thing to do,” said Harris Rosen, president/COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts.
The following Rosen hotels will offer a distress rate:
- Rosen Inn International, 7600 International Dr., Orlando
- Rosen Inn closest to Universal, 6327 International Dr., Orlando
- Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando, 9000 International Dr., Orlando
- Midpointe Hotel, 9922 Hawaiian Ct., Orlando
- Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista, 8442 Palm Parkway, Lake Buena Vista
- Rosen Plaza, 9700 International Dr., Orlando
- Rosen Centre, 9840 International Dr., Orlando
South Beach Group Hotels is welcoming any of its North Florida family who would like to weather the storm in Miami by offering an additional 25% discount for travel now through Sept. 4, 2019. The accommodations are pet-friendly, so guests traveling with animal companions can bring them along at no additional cost. For those driving south, the hotel group will also provide a daily rebate for parking in local City of Miami Beach garages with a valid receipt.