Hurricane Maria continued to pummel its way through Puerto Rico on Wednesday, bringing destructive winds, flooding rain and storm surge to the U.S. territory and the nearby Virgin Islands. The Weather Channel said it was “the most intense hurricane landfall [in P.R.] since before the Great Depression.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello turned to Twitter to share that he asked President Donald Trump “to declare Puerto Rico a disaster area” in hopes of receiving full FEMA assistance and additional relief.
The Associated Press shared an update from El Nuevo Dia that said “80 percent of homes in a small fishing community near San Juan were damaged” and that “communication was severed with several emergency posts.” Additionally, WKAQ-AM said “about 90 percent of customers were without power.”
According to CNN’s latest reporting, Maria killed at least seven people on the Caribbean island nation of Dominica, which is assessing damage and communicating with Antigua and Barbuda. Hurricane Maria was expected to drop 12 to 18 inches of rain on Puerto Rico, before moving on to Turks and Caicos.
The current path of Hurricane Maria shows it avoiding Florida and the U.S. East Coast.
Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available.
Miami and the Beaches said it is open for business following minimal impact from Hurricane Irma. The destination’s tourism industry also launched a new promotion backed by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) titled #MiamiNow. The value-offer promotion runs through October 31 and includes six of the GMCVB’s 12 Temptations Programs: Miami Spice, Miami Spa, Miami Hotel, Miami Attractions, Miami Museums and Shop Miami Month. All packages offer unique deals to visitors.
According to GMCVB, the program offers a variety of deals, providing value on hotels, restaurants, spas, museums, attractions and shopping. The GMCVB said it hopes the offers will support local business.
- DINE: Miami Spice Restaurant Month has been extended through October 31 with nearly 200 restaurants participating. Highlighting Greater Miami and The Beaches’ diverse and ever-evolving culinary scene, Miami Spice restaurants will continue offering reduced prices ($23 per person for lunch and brunch/$39 per person for dinner) in some of the hottest neighborhoods.
- STAY: Many hotels are extending special offers through October 31 as part of the #MiamiNow promotion. Hotels throughout the destination from Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Sunny Isles Beach, etc., are offering promotional rates and special amenity packages. A few of the hotel participants include: Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Coconut Grove and Bal Harbour properties, Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami, Marenas Beach Resort Sunny Isles Beach, The Biltmore Hotel Coral Gables, EPIC Hotel, Four Season Hotel Miami and Mandarin Oriental Miami.
- PAMPER: Miami Spa Month is back! More than 25 spas are offering exclusive treatments at $109 and $139, with select spas offering treatments for $199.
- SHOP: Miami’s most popular malls, marketplaces, boutiques, restaurants and hotels will be offering incentives across different retailers.
- ARTS & ATTRACTIONS: Home to internationally renowned cultural institutions and art museums, many Miami and the Beaches attractions and museum are rolling out special Miami Now offers and buy-one-get-one-free admissions.
“We are proud of our local tourism industry for being among the first in the destination to raise their hand to keep the community moving forward,” said William D. Talbert, III, C.D.M.E. “Jobs are our top priority. Tourism is the number one industry in Miami-Dade County and the #MiamiNow promotion celebrates the best of Miami’s tourism industry across many sectors while welcoming [new] visitors.”
For a complete listing of all the #MiamiNow special offers, visit MiamiandtheBeaches.com.
PUERTO RICO/U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS/CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
Hurricane Maria continued on its path toward Puerto Rico as of Tuesday morning, Sept. 19, after devastating Dominica as a Category 5 storm and then weakening to a still potent Category 4. Maria is said to be the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Dominica, a small Caribbean island reliant on tourism.
Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, but if the current National Hurricane Center forecast holds true, it will not be as lucky with Hurricane Maria, which is predicted to pass directly over the island. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the government has prepared hundreds of shelters capable of housing more than 100,000 evacuees if necessary, according to the latest reporting from USA Today and other news outlets.
A hurricane warning is in effect as of Tuesday morning for Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. Florida is keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Maria as it develops, but it seems that the storm system will bypass the recovering state.
Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available.
Marriott International announced the opening of its new dual-branded hotel development in downtown Denver, bringing two of its European-inspired brands to the city: Le Méridien and AC Hotels by Marriott.
The 20-story development features a 272-room Le Méridien Hotel and a 223-room AC Hotel by Marriott and is owned and managed by White Lodging Services Corporation and will target the group market.
“We’re really excited to be a part of this dual-branded property opening with Le Méridien, which represents the bringing together of two great European-rooted brands under one roof,” said Benoit Racle, senior global brand director, AC Hotels By Marriott. “The carefully edited, high-style experience that you get at an AC Hotel is perfect for the modern business traveler looking for frictionless, uncomplicated service."
The AC Hotel by Marriott Denver Downtown is the lifestyle brand’s first property to open in Denver. Introduced to the U.S. in 2014, the AC Hotel By Marriott brand originated in Europe in 2011 as a joint venture with Spanish hotelier, Antonio Catalan, and now offers a portfolio of over 100 hotels in countries across Europe, Latin America and North America. Inspired by classic European design, the brand aims to appeal to the modern business traveler, with its simple, clean and crisp layout that hopes to inspire productivity and creativity.
Led by the Simeone Deary Design Group, the Denver hotel infuses the parts and pieces that make up a typical AC experience and melds them into the local landscape of the city. Based around the concept of the “Urban Pioneer,” the space is designed to feel like a modern ski lodge, with peaked roofs, strong lines, geometric language and bold interior gestures. The materials for the public spaces are indigenous to Denver and inspired by the surrounding nature to include warm woods, chiseled stone, etc.
“We are delighted to expand our partnership with White Lodging to introduce Le Méridien brand to Denver,” said Brian Povinelli, SVP and global brand leader, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts. “We have made significant investments to develop the brand, which connects with guests through the art, culture and cuisine in cities around the world. We think these passion points are sure to resonate with [guests].”
Also led by the Simeone Deary Design Group, Le Méridien Denver Downtown takes shape with the clean lines of mid-century modern design. The interiors feature a refreshing color palette complementing unique millwork concepts, reminiscent of the intricate craftsmanship of snowboards and skis. The hotel immediately creates a sense of arrival with one-of-a-kind artwork installations, constructed with vintage pieces reassembled into contemporary sculptural art—reimagining the intricate nature of a snowflake.
Each of the 272 guest rooms and suites are designed with a cool grey color palette with striking accent color combinations reminiscent of blue skies, green aspens, sunset orange and crimson.
Le Méridien will offer more than 12,000 square feet of state-of-the-art event space including a 5,700-square-foot ballroom, as well as meeting rooms brightened through floor-to-ceiling windows. The properties feature more than 30 pieces of artwork curated by Denver-based firm, NINE dot ARTS, and created by local artists inspired by the property’s European influence and the Rocky Mountains.
Opening in tandem with the hotels are Denver’s buzziest new drinking and dining venues. 54thirty, the city’s highest open-air, seasonal rooftop bar, offers unparalleled views of the city and the Rocky Mountains. Corinne, a dining and cocktail spot serving classic, simple American comfort food with an emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner service. The Lobbyist, Le Méridien’s sparkling cocktail lounge, opens in the hotel’s modern-designed social space.
Further bringing Denver’s dynamic culture to global travelers, the hotel has tapped local partners for guest experiences and special packages, including Clyfford Still Museum, the Real Dill, Bee Squared Apeiaries, Renegade Brewery, Colorado Cider Company and Laws Whiskey House, among others.
Le Méridien Denver Downtown and AC Hotel by Marriott Denver Downtown is located at the center of the city’s business district at 15th and California, one block from the Colorado Convention Center.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) announced they are collaborating to present meeting and event focused education at GBTA Conference 2017 Frankfurt in Partnership with VDR, taking place in Frankfurt, Nov. 28-30, 2017. GBTA’s European Meetings Committee, in partnership with MPI, will deliver four educational sessions during the conference, sharing best practices from companies across the globe and varied case studies.
The educations sessions will include:
How the West is Won: Success Stories from Optimized Meetings & Events Programs: This session will focus on recent research on Strategic Meetings Management Program (SMMP) trends and forecasts and how best to capitalize on these trends in 2017 and beyond.
Measuring the ROI of Learning: A learning event includes experiences that facilitate gaining knowledge, skills, attitudes and/or behaviours. This session provides a best fit, pragmatic approach for measuring the ROI of learning that can be adapted to a wide range of contexts and learner types.
Travel Management Meets Meeting Management: This session provides a step-by-step practical guide on how to manage a combined meetings and travel spend to benefit your organisation. The session will include guidance from travel managers who have already taken on this responsibility.
The Meeting of the Future: This session will look at technology disruptors affecting the meetings space and what meetings may look like 20 years from now.
“We are delighted to be working with MPI,” said Catherine McGavock, GBTA Regional vice president – EMEA. “Our members have identified meetings and events as a growing part of their portfolio and this new partnership addresses their needs for specialized education and expertise in this area.”
GBTA Conference 2017 Frankfurt in Partnership with VDR is Europe’s largest business travel conference. Over 1,000 business travel professionals from around the world will gather in Germany’s financial capital for state-of-the-art education on the industry’s most pressing issues, exclusive networking opportunities and announcements on the latest products and services by the world’s leading suppliers.
This year’s theme, Convergence, was developed to address the industry-wide disruption caused by the merging of various functions, roles and policies. From the changing role of the travel manager to the emergence of new and transformation of existing players in the market, these disrupters have paved the way for the evolution of business travel. For more information, please visit: europeconference.gbta.org.
COLLEGE PARK, Md.
The Hotel at the University of Maryland, located in the Baltimore-Washington metro area, officially welcomed its first guests on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. The hotel offers 297 guest rooms and 43,000 square feet of meeting space in a 10-story structure that’s located just opposite the campus visitors center.
The Hotel is working in partnership with the university, but is independently owned and operated by Southern Management Corporation, the largest privately owned residential property management company in the Mid-Atlantic. The hotel is the inspiration of developer David H. Hillman.
“This community has been eagerly awaiting our hotel, which provides a luxury lodging and event venue in a town that has craved this caliber of facility for decades,” Hillman said. “We wanted to spark economic growth along Baltimore Avenue and throughout the town of College Park.”
State, local and university officials consider the opening of The Hotel the first of several significant changes aimed at transforming College Park into one of the top 20 college towns in the nation by 2020.
“Even before its doors open, this magnificent hotel and conference center has already begun to transform College Park and advance this institution,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “It anchors our innovation enterprise, has attracted major investment and new businesses, and will serve this campus and its visitors in great style. We thank Mr. Hillman for his vision and success.”
The Hotel houses a lobby bar and four restaurants, giving locals and visitors alike options to suit all budgets and tastes. Old Maryland Grill, The Hotel’s largest dining venue and the source of its room service menu, is focused on classic and contemporary Maryland cuisine. Guests can expect to find crab, oysters, Eastern Shore fried chicken and even Maryland’s official state dessert, Smith Island cake, on its menu. It’s owned by Mike Franklin, an entrepreneur who opened the popular Franklins Restaurant, Brewpub and General Store in nearby Hyattsville, providing an instrumental role in its development.
Kapnos Taverna, a coastal Greek restaurant created by Mike Isabella, one of the Washington area’s most celebrated chefs, will open later in the month. Bagels ‘n Grinds and Potomac Pizza, a pair of franchises created by Adam Greenberg, whose wife graduated from the university, also opened on Sept. 8.
The Hotel’s position along the Baltimore-Washington corridor and easy access to three major airports also makes it an ideal option for meetings and events of all sizes and types. Located merely 10 miles from Washington and 30 from Baltimore, this property also provides free shuttle service to the College Park Metro station and can connect its guests to the nation’s capital and surrounding highlights.
Ten separate event spaces are named for notable figures in state, county and university history—from the Wright brothers, who taught the first army pilots how to fly at the world’s oldest continuously operating airport (located just around the corner), to Harriet Tubman, who was born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, to Muppets creator and UMD graduate Jim Henson. The Hotel also boasts a 10th-story penthouse event space that offers unparalleled views of the campus and beyond to impress groups.
Standard guest rooms, which average 450 square feet, are the largest in town. The Hotel also offers a fitness center, pool and open-air zen garden terrace on its fourth floor. In a few short months, Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa will open a 5,200-square foot facility on that same recreation floor; like all the restaurants, the spa will be open to the public as well as hotel guests. The property also opened an 850-car parking garage so visitors can come and go, whether meeting friends or attending a conference.
Meeting Professionals International (MPI) selected Christine Roberts to serve as executive director of the MPI Foundation. In this role, Roberts will be responsible for setting strategic and financial goals as well as directing fundraising and operational activities for the foundation. She officially begins the role on Sept. 18, 2017, reporting to Darren Temple, COO of MPI and executive VP of the MPI Foundation.
Roberts has more than 25 years of experience in the industry. She is a current member of MPI and previously served as president of the MPI South Florida Chapter. As executive director, Roberts will work closely with Temple to implement strategic business plans approved by the MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees and regional councils, while managing the day to day operations of the foundation.
“We believe Christine will be an excellent leader for the MPI Foundation thanks to her deep understanding of MPI and our industry, coupled with her solid business development and management experience,” Temple said. “In addition, she has established strong relationships with industry partners throughout her career, which will be helpful in driving the foundation’s fundraising efforts.”
Roberts most recently worked as vice president, convention sales and services for the Fort Lauderdale CVB. During her 10-year tenure with the organization, she led their Business Events Team, managed a $3 million budget, and served as liaison for hospitality business leaders and meeting industry associations.
She also previously held leadership roles with LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels and Starwood Hotels.
“I am delighted to join MPI to lead the MPI Foundation. I have been an engaged chapter member, volunteer leader and business partner with MPI for many years, and I credit much of my personal leadership experience to my membership and involvement with MPI,” Roberts said. “I believe in MPI, and am excited to build the Foundation resources which will continue to engage and provide opportunities for advancement to the MPI community and the meeting and event industry.”
Roberts will be based in Pompano Beach, Fla., where she currently resides.
A new Category 3 storm system named Hurricane Maria, which is following a similar path to Hurricane Irma, is heading toward the Caribbean, threatening a direct hit on Puerto Rico and other nearby islands.
According to USA Today, “a potential impact on the East Coast will depend on steering currents in the upper atmosphere over the western Atlantic and the eastern U.S.” that are currently unpredictable.
Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic could be hit by Hurricane Maria as soon as Wednesday. Puerto Rico President Ricardo Rossello said the government has prepared hundreds of shelters.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose’s 75 mph winds will bring rip currents and rough surf to the U.S. East Coast. Tropical storm warnings have already been posted along much of the southeastern New England coast.
Editor's Note: Hurricane Maria has grown to a Category 4 storm as of the evening on Sept. 18.
Visit Orlando issued the following update on Thursday, Sept. 14.
The Orlando meetings industry resumed full operations after Hurricane Irma earlier this week. The destination’s attractions, hotels, resorts and meetings facilities are up and running, and already working with meeting planners on scheduling future shows.
The destination is currently hosting thousands of visitors at its 450 hotels, and began welcoming new flight arrivals at Orlando International Airport and Orlando Sanford International Airport over the last few days.
The Orange County Convention Center has opened its doors and is fully operational after clearing just minimal landscape debris. The center is preparing to welcome the load-in of its first major post-storm event starting this week. The center also served a dual purpose as a staging ground for equipment and machinery used in response and recovery efforts both during and after the storm.
All of the area’s largest theme parks - including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando - are open to welcome attendees, as well as numerous attractions.
Dining, shopping and entertainment are also in full swing as all of the popular retail, dining and entertainment districts are open to attendees including I-Drive 360, Pointe Orlando, Restaurant Row, Universal CityWalk and Disney Springs, as well as the International Drive tourism area.
“Visit Orlando has communicated with hundreds of our member businesses, and it is clear the vast majority are back to business,” said George Aguel, president & CEO of Visit Orlando. “As one of the top meetings destinations in the United States, Orlando has an extraordinary infrastructure in place that responds quickly and efficiently to ensure minimal business disruption to this industry, which is so important to us, and this system has clearly served us well.”
GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB issued the following update on Tues., Sept. 12. The Southeast Florida destination stated that it fared well after the storm and expects to be back to normal operations shortly.
The full update from the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB is copied below with minor edits:
The Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB is pleased to advise the destination is no longer under any weather watches, warnings or advisories following Hurricane Irma.
The Florida east coast destination fared well as the storm moved away from the area in a more southwesterly direction on Sunday, Sept. 10, and winds began to lessen. Weather conditions are currently good and cleanup efforts are underway, with some businesses and residents still without power.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades resumed operations at 4:00 a.m. today [Tues., Sept. 12]. Four cruise ships that were delayed due to the storm are scheduled to return to Port Everglades today [Tues., Sept. 12] and Wednesday [Sept. 13].
The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is fully operational.
Many of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s hotels remained open during the storm providing shelter and accommodations to visitors and residents. Hotels along the area’s coast line have reported no damage and are in the process of reopening by the end of this weekend as power is restored, per Florida Power & Light.
“We are blessed for sure,” said Stacy Ritter, president/CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. “The storm was bigger than ever imagined and very concerning for our visitors and 1.9 million residents. Broward County was well prepared with emergency services, and cleanup activities are taking place throughout the area. The high-code standards of our many new buildings showed that good construction pays off. We expect to be back to normal operations and welcoming vacationers and scheduled meetings and conference attendees shortly.”
The Marriott Marquis Chicago opened on Sept. 10. The property brings 1,205 guest rooms, including 44 suites, to the entertainment and convention district of McCormick Square. Marriott Marquis Chicago is directly connected to the McCormick Place and is adjacent to the new 10,000-seat Wintrust Arena. It is the largest hotel to open in Chicago this year and the largest Marriott property to open in North America in 2017.
Designed by Chicago-based Anderson/Miller Ltd., in collaboration with design architect Gensler, the interior of the property is rooted in the ethos of Chicago, with a strong, unpretentious and clean contemporary design. The new modern glass hotel connects to the historic American Book Company building, originally built in 1912, creating a unique architectural juxtaposition of old meets new.
The guest rooms embody a high level of comfort with minimal and thoughtful design touches in cool shades of grey and white to complement the incredible exterior view of the city. To further invite the city in, each room features unique lightbox artwork – the first of its kind within a hotel room – depicting various Chicago bridges and locations. Of the 1,161 regular guest rooms, there are 26 club kings, 461 kings, and 674 doubles.
The property boasts 93,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including two 25,000-square-foot ballrooms and 43,000 square feet of breakout meeting rooms. The Junior and Grand ballrooms are amongst the largest in the city and feature views of the city skyline. Each ballroom has a floating ceiling plane comprised of repetitive angles that add creative depth and dimension to the 30-foot ceilings.
The American Book Company building boasts 29 meeting rooms varying in size, along with centralized lounges with soft seating and charging areas on each floor. Custom carpet designs are prominent throughout the space to pay homage to the neighborhood, including a V-shaped design meant to evoke tread marks as a subtle nod to nearby Motor Row. A 4,000-square-foot event space on the 33rd floor will open later this year with floor-to-ceiling windows offering unobstructed 180-degree views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
Elevating the lobby, hallways, and various corridors of the hotel are commissioned art pieces from more than 30 Chicago-based artists, defying the common assumption that hotel art is merely a decoration. The collection, which was fully curated by Anderson/Miller Ltd., features the work of notable and influential Chicago artists across various mediums, including Matthew Hoffman, Wesley Kimler, Amanda Williams and more. Each was asked to create a piece inspired by the hotel, its location and the surrounding city environment.
The works displayed in the public areas of the hotel also include a video enabled QR code, so guests can conduct their own tour of the pieces using their smartphones. To celebrate these artists, the design team collaborated with Chicago-based AudioTree to produce a special video available in guest rooms, featuring exclusive details about the inspiration of each piece through interviews. Guests are invited to access this content through a dedicated television channel.
The hotel features the signature Marriott two-story Great Room with a Grab 'n Go market called 2121 Pantry, which serves quick, fresh bites and offered as room service. A U-shaped bar anchors the large space, and a community kitchen can be seen through glass paneling, with the space serving as a private dining room or intimate chef's table for special dinners.
Additional hotel amenities include fiber optic high-speed internet connectivity, a state-of-the-art fitness facility open 24 hours a day and the M Club Lounge. Access to the M Club Lounge can also be added to any guest's stay for an additional fee. There is also a business center and FedEx office on property as an added convenience.
SOUTH FLORIDA/CARIBBEAN ISLANDS
Properties in Florida and the Caribbean are beginning to resume service and accepting reservations post-Irma. Below is an update from some area hotels and resorts.
Following the storm, The Setai, Miami Beach announced that the property has sustained minimal damage and reopened Wednesday, Sept. 13. The resort will resume as usual with the gym, spa and housekeeping fully operational. The property’s ocean-front pools and beach-service are open with limited food and beverage offerings.
The W Miami sustained minimal damage during Hurricane Irma and will be fully operational and accepting reservations starting Friday, Sept. 15. Service will resume as usual at 15th and Vine restaurant, the exercise facility and spa, 50th floor Wet Deck and Whisper Cocktail Lounge.
1 Hotels confirmed the reopening of 1 Hotel South Beach for Friday Sept.15 at noon, following its closure due to Hurricane Irma and Miami’s mandatory evacuation of the area. 1 Hotel South Beach will resume operations as usual with the property’s ocean-front pools and Sand Box dining, Beachcraft restaurant, pltnhouse, Bamford Haybarn Spa and Spartan Gym, among other hotel amenities and features, like poolside cabanas and in-room dining. Beach service will become available the following day, beginning Sept.16 while 1 Rooftop pool and Watr restaurant are undergoing beautification efforts following the storm and will reopen at a later date.
The Diplomat Beach Resort team and the city of Hollywood, Fla., have worked diligently to clear the property and surrounding roadways of scattered debris to restore limited service operations on Friday, Sept. 15. The property will be fully operational, including its 10 food and beverage outlets, as of Saturday, Sept. 16.
Chesapeake Lodging Trust announced that it reopened its Royal Palm South Beach Miami, a Tribute Portfolio Resort on Tuesday, Sept. 12, just 48 hours after Hurricane Irma passed through the state of Florida.
Meliá Hotels International reports that hotels in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Orlando and Miami are fully operational, following in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Furthermore, the ME Miami opened Wednesday, Sept. 13 and resumed service as usual.
Meliá Coco Beach hotel has conducted an extensive property assessment in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The hotel has not been significantly affected and has reopened to guests.
Seven Stars Resort & Spa reported that all of the staff and guests safely weathered the storm without injury. The resort received minor damage and none of the buildings on property sustained any serious damage and was not affected by any rising water or flooding. Additionally, the resort never closed its doors through the hurricane and is fully operational. Landscaping was impacted and the resort team is working diligently to restore it.
Sagamore Hotel Miami Beach announced on Friday, Sept., 15 full hotel operations are available for reservations including all 93 suites and bungalows as well as its beachfront pool, meeting space, and signature restaurant CANVAS.
“We were very fortunate and thankful that Sagamore did not experience any significant property damage and most importantly our staff is safe,” commented Stefan Ehrenberg, general manager.
Lighthouse Pointe at Grand Lucayan reported it fared well during the storm and re-opened its doors on Friday, Sept. 15.
CORAL GABLES, Fla.
The travel and tourism industry launched the Caribbean Hurricane Tourism Recovery Fund, uniting the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association with the Tourism Cares organization, which has helped to lead private sector efforts globally following crisis, such as the recent devastation from Hurricane Irma.
The fund will allow tourism industry stakeholders and friends of the region throughout the Caribbean and the world to pool their resources in support of vulnerable, devastated areas of the northern Caribbean that welcome millions of visitors in a region that supports 2.4 million tourism-related jobs.
The fund's focus on the recovery of islands directly affected by Hurricane Irma complements existing relief efforts and gives the tourism industry a way to leverage its resources to help the region.
"Tourism is the quickest way to rebound an economy, put people back to work and generate badly needed tax revenues to support reconstruction,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA). “By working together, we should be able to build a better and more resilient sector. The Recovery Fund will help us as we gather together to marshal investment support for the most severely affected areas and to help hoteliers and their staff get back to business.”
Troubetzkoy stressed the importance of strengthening the resilience of the sector and how CHTA and Tourism Cares aim to have the affected areas of the Caribbean ready to receive tourists for the spring and summer seasons of 2018, if not sooner, stating that tourism is key to the region’s recovery.
The greatest benefit will be felt in destinations such as St. Maarten-St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Barts, Barbuda, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. Included also will be the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southern Bahamas, where the impact of Irma is still being assessed.
"There is no shortage of need for us to fill, given the scope of the hurricane's impact,” Troubetzkoy said.
“We know that there will be a considerable number of displaced employees who can benefit from skills training while properties are being restored. Hospitality studies programs in the schools need to be re-outfitted and strengthened, there are visitor centers at airports which were destroyed; the islands' hotel and tourism associations need support to help tourism rebound as quickly as possible. The needs are tremendous, and we are appealing to our tourism industry partners and friends of the Caribbean.”
Fund contributions will focus on affected communities and organizations in need of projects such as the physical restoration of damaged attractions and cultural tourism nonprofits, including historical monuments, beaches or open spaces and visitor centers. Other areas of focus include capacity building and support for nonprofit organizations and their facilities, systems and staff capabilities, to ensure that the social capital of the region recovers and gets stronger. Skills training, professional development and education-related initiatives will also be a focus, with the aim of helping those in the industry and those aspiring to be in the industry. These activities could include technical assistance and skilled volunteering.
Other investments based on need include training on volunteer management, disaster mitigation and planning, and marketing and communications support for destinations throughout the Caribbean.
"This effort is a natural complement to all the wonderful giving we've already seen from the travel and tourism industry," said Mike Rea, CEO of Tourism Cares. "We can make the greatest difference by giving together with our industry, for our industry—especially in times of crisis. We will leverage not just our donations, but also our expertise and influence, and we will share our stories [throughout the industry]."
CHTA will work with its affiliate hotel and tourism associations to assess needs and identify responses, along with engaging members, partners and friends of the Caribbean. Tourism Cares will administer the fund, engage the industry and provide program expertise based on decades of philanthropic experience.
Donations are tax deductible where applicable and may be made online at the Tourism Cares Caribbean relief page (www.tourismcares.org/caribbean), by check (payable to Caribbean Hurricane Tourism Recovery Fund c/o Tourism Cares, 20 Vernon St., Norwood, MA 02062, USA) or by donating securities.
Questions may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco completed its renovation of more than 15,000 square feet of meeting space, including the Veranda Ballroom and the addition of a new executive boardroom, the SoMa Suite.
“Guests are immediately transfixed by the thoughtful design that draws from San Francisco’s natural beauty—the fog, mist, redwood trees and waters of the Pacific Ocean,” said General Manager Doug Housley. “We’re very proud of the look and feel that the redesign brings to Four Seasons and how it elevates the entire stature of the hotel and the warm and intuitive service we are known for.”
The final phase of the $20 million transformation will be completed in March 2018 with the renovation of the 277 guest rooms and suites at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel. The hotel partnered with New York-based Meyer Davis, a design boutique specializing in residential, hospitality, retail and workplace environments, to push the design towards the future in a forward-thinking city.
Design aspects include:
- A punchy blue and purple palette, complimented by cool greys, that tie the artwork to Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco’s urban setting.
- Custom carpets that draw from San Francisco’s fog and mist in the lobby and reception areas, as well as redwood tree rings and Pacific water ripples in the pre-function and function areas.
- Floor-to-ceiling windows in the Veranda Ballroom and Veranda Pre-Function B have new drapery that similarly have a misty glow .
- New furniture pieces are hand-finished walnut slabs and cerused oak, with strong steel and brass accents.
- The Veranda Terrace, the only outdoor space attached to a meeting room in the city, has lounge seating and several cocktail tables from which to enjoy views of SoMa and Yerba Buena gardens.
For the new SoMa Suite at Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, Meyer Davis drew from the refresh of the surrounding public areas and executed it in bright purples and blues. A custom walnut conference table includes executive chairs, and a fixture by Brendan Ravenhill is installed above. Simple and comfortable, this executive boardroom enhances the amenities of the hotel and rounds out the guest experience.
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco is known as a place to see and be seen for weddings, social events, special occasions, or in the case of high-profile guests, be discreetly out of the public eye. The meeting space is conveniently all located on the fifth floor, and the Promenade allows guests easy access to and from the Veranda Ballroom, Veranda Terrace, the mid-sized Yerba Buena Room and executive suites.
FLORIDA KEYS/MARCO ISLAND/JACKSONVILLE, Fla.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott surveyed the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Irma on Monday, which included the Florida Keys, Marco Island and Jacksonville. Irma’s eyewall passed directly over the Florida Keys and Marco Island (located just south of Naples). Meanwhile Jacksonville struggled with historic flooding.
On Monday (Sept. 11), CBS Miami reporter David Sutta described the Florida Keys as a “war zone.” And another emergency responder referred to the scene in the Florida Keys as a possible “humanitarian crisis.” The Florida Keys is temporarily closed to visitors following Hurricane Irma while the region starts to rebuild.
The Florida Keys & Key West CVB issued an update on Sept. 12 that said residents were still being asked to exercise caution when heading outdoors, but that key infrastructure repairs were underway. The City of Naples Florida website listed a boil water notice for Naples and also added some post Irma safety info.
Visit Jacksonville did not have any updates posted on its website, but it shared the following on Twitter:
Several Caribbean Islands were also among the hardest hit by Irma and are beginning the slow road to recovery. Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available.
You can also follow along with live updates via The New York Times as Irma weakens on Tuesday. The Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee were expected to be hit with heavy rains and strong winds.
All Houston hotel submarkets reported occupancy growth after the initial days of Hurricane Harvey, according to STR, a data benchmarking company. However, four of 13 STR-defined submarkets reported a year-over-year occupancy decline during the nine-day period analyzed by STR’s Consulting & Analytics department.
Additionally, significant occupancy decreases were reported in the southern Louisiana area.
“Double-digit occupancy declines were seen throughout a majority of the Houston market up until August 27 when hotels began filling up with displaced residents, FEMA and other demand related to recovery efforts,” said Ali Hoyt, STR’s senior director of consulting and analytics. “The four submarkets directly affected by Hurricane Harvey saw occupancy decline over the nine-day period we analyzed, but most other areas reported double-digit growth during that time. We also saw outlying markets like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio pick up additional demand likely due to shelters remaining full in the Houston area.”
The four Houston submarkets to report an overall occupancy decline from August 25 through September 2 were the Houston CBD (-23.2% to 46.3%), Houston Galleria/Greenway Plaza (-4.3% to 57.2%), Beaumont (-12.2% to 55.4%) and Galveston/Texas City (-21.4% to 41.9%).
Galveston, which is a submarket of less than 7,000 rooms, reported the largest performance drop over the nine-day stretch, with revenue per available room down 42.1% to $41.30. The Houston North/Woodlands and Houston George Bush Airport Area submarkets saw the largest occupancy increases at 42.3% and 38.3%.
“The northern suburbs area was expected to be less affected by the storm’s ferocity and was viewed by many to be a safe evacuation point,” Hoyt noted. “The airport was a logical place for immediate hotel demand."
The Louisiana South and New Orleans markets saw occupancy decreases of 38.3% and 22.6%, respectively.
“Unlike Hurricane Katrina, we haven’t seen a significant amount of rooms go offline due to storm damage,” Hoyt said. “However, we will assume there was damage to some construction sites, so there may be a delay or even attrition with the 5,247 hotel rooms under construction across the Houston market.”
STR provides clients from multiple market sectors with global data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights. Founded in 1985, STR maintains a presence in 10 countries with a corporate headquarters in Hendersonville, Tenn.
Most major cruise lines and popular theme parks planned to resume service on Sept. 12 in Florida, after closing for multiple days as Hurricane Irma passed through the region. Irma’s last minute westward movement meant that it caused less damage in Orlando and cruise ships have altered itineraries to avoid the hardest hit areas.
Susquehanna Financial analyst Rachael Rothman wrote in a note to Bloomberg that the effect of storms, such as Harvey and Irma, on cruise lines typically “don’t recur or last much beyond the actual event.”
Royal Caribbean and Carnival planned to resume sailings on Tuesday after a four-day hiatus, according to USA Today. Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have been allowing customers booked on Tuesday's trips to cancel without penalty and they are providing full refunds in the form of a future cruise credits.
Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines received media attention after they used cruise ships to evacuate employees away from the path of Hurricane Irma and deliver supplies. Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean went into “hurricane relief mode” to support Caribbean destinations.
Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando facilities all planned to open on Tuesday, Sept. 12, after dodging major Hurricane Irma damage, but air travel to the area still remains difficult.
SAN JUAN, P.R.
Meet Puerto Rico President Milton Segarra released the following statement after Hurricane Irma:
“Meet Puerto Rico worked closely with the PRTC and PRHTA and our members, preparing and readying ourselves for Hurricane Irma, and urging our members, staff and clients, to take the appropriate measures to protect life and property. We are happy to report that we are all well.
“We are also pleased to report after reaching out to the membership of Meet Puerto Rico (hotels, airports, venues, transportation services) that the Puerto Rico Convention Center and most of our hotels are fully operational, ready to welcome guests and accepting reservations.
“Most damages are restricted to debris, which is being removed. The Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is up and running on generators and reporting no structural damage.
“No groups or site visits have been canceled. Our calendar of events remains unchanged and we remain ready to welcome all groups to Puerto Rico soon. Please click here for additional information.
“We at Meet Puerto Rico send our good thoughts to all who have been impacted by Hurricane Irma and to those still in its path and send our prayers for safe delivery.”
Despite Puerto Rico’s narrow avoidance of the eye wall of Hurricane Irma, the island’s infrastructure took a hit, leaving an estimated 70% of its population without power directly following the storm. That did not stop a group of Puerto Ricans from sailing to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands to provide aid.
In its 48th year, the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel announced the completion of an extensive, multimillion-dollar interior renovation. Started nearly a year ago, the large-scale renovation was designed to offer a one-of-a-kind guest experience by blending historic elements with contemporary add-ons.
The hotel is operated by TPG Hotels & Resorts and owned by Chesapeake Lodging Trust.
"We are thrilled to see this major undertaking come to an end and proud of our new look," said Christopher Allen, general manager of the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel. "Our entire team feels passionate and excited to showcase our renovated product to our valued [business] guests."
The renovation encompasses all 430 guest rooms—including a unique bi-level presidential suite—as well as a fully refurbished lobby, guest corridors, all meeting rooms and a 9,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom.
The iconic hotel nestled along the banks of the Charles River now incorporates modern sophistication while maintaining much of its original structure and rich history. Preserving the classics was valuable to honor the history of Newton as this area was once an amusement playground called Norumbega Park.
Delta cancelled at least 800 flights in Atlanta as Irma—downgraded to a tropical storm—made its way toward Georgia and Alabama. Despite being downgraded, the storm still has the potential to cause damage.
As reported by USA Today, “[Hartsfield – Jackson Atlanta International Airport] is the busiest in the world and home to the largest hub for Delta Air Lines.” Delta has already warned of major disruptions in travel as the day (and week) goes on.
Nearly 900 flights have been canceled so far in total at the Atlanta airport, with more cancellations likely to be announced throughout the day. Some flights were also beginning to cancel in Birmingham, Ala., due to complications from Irma.
USA Today put the total cancellations related to Hurricane Irma “at 14,000 and counting.” A "trickle of [flights] to South Florida" were expected later on Monday.
Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport remained closed on Monday, Sept. 11 as the airports assessed hurricane-related damage, according to the Miami Herald. Orlando International Airport was also still closed on Monday.
Miami International spokeswoman Karla Cobreiro said in a statement that after Monday’s damage assessment, airport personnel will determine if passenger flights can resume on Tuesday. The Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood Airport has not yet issued an update on when it expects to resume flights. Neither has Orlando.
Palm Beach International Airport was scheduled to reopen at noon Monday with limited service.
A more complete list of airport closures in Florida (as of Monday morning) is available here.
Irma continued north on Monday morning, ultimately sparing Tampa from devastation. Meanwhile, parts of the Florida Keys were leveled and Jacksonville suffered major flood damage. Roughly 5.8 million customers were without power in Florida as of Monday morning and the full extent of damage is still being assessed.
Mayor Charlie Lathan of Jacksonville Beach told CNN that about 90 percent of people in the city had lost power. In Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said on Monday that the city had been spared the storm’s worst. St. Petersburg reported mostly minor debris scattered in lawns and on roads. Most area businesses remained closed.
According to The New York Times, Gov. Rick Scott was heading to the Florida Keys on Monday “to survey the extent of the damage there and in other parts of South Florida.” The Florida Keys was hit in full force by Hurricane Irma and residents are being told to stay indoors. Miami residents were reportedly venturing out into the streets to check things out, but were also being instructed to stay indoors, due to lingering hazards.
Irma, now a tropical storm, was expected to stay inland over Florida as it heads into Georgia, before moving on to Alabama and Tennessee. Despite its weakened state, Irma is still dangerous and will likely continue to pose weather-related problems.
More information is available (and constantly being updated) via The New York Times’ live updates.
Based on the latest forecasts for Hurricane Irma that placed Orlando in range of the storm and keeping safety top of mind, Walt Disney World Resort announced it would be closed on Sunday, Sept. 10 and Monday, Sept. 11.
Disney resort hotels will remain open throughout, though services and amenities will be adjusted. The properties plan to resume normal operations on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Regular updates will be provided to guests on all operational changes. Please continue to check here for updates and for more detailed information.
Universal Orlando Resort also closed due to Hurricane Irma. The destination closed at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9. The resort will stay closed on Sunday and Monday and it anticipates normal operating hours will resume on Tuesday, Sept. 12. On-site hotels are at capacity and remain operational. More information can be found here.
To ensure the safety of guests, ambassadors and animals during Hurricane Irma, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island Tampa Bay announced the following:
SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay planned to close by 5 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, Sept. 9, pending further updates. Both parks will remained closed on Sunday, Sept. 10 and Monday, Sept. 11. Aquatica Orlando and Adventure Island closed on Saturday, Sept. 9, and will remain closed through Monday, Sept. 11. Discovery Cove closed on Sunday, Sept. 10 and will remain closed on Monday, Sept. 11.
Check here for updates on all SeaWorld parks.
UPDATE: According to USA Today, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Seaworld Orlando dodged major Hurricane Irma damage and are on track to open Tuesday, Sept. 12. Central Florida did receive some damage.
CLARKSVILLE, Ind./LOUISVILLE, Ky.
Radisson announced the opening of Radisson Hotel Louisville North, located in Clarksville, Ind. The hotel is 10 miles from both the Louisville International Airport and the iconic horse races at Churchill Downs.
"We are excited to introduce this hotel as we continue growing the Radisson brand," said Rich Flores, vice president of operations for Radisson in the Americas. "The focus the management and staff place on catering to the needs of their guests through our [service philosophy] will make this hotel a success."
The hotel offers 353 guest rooms and suites. Guests have access to free Wi-Fi, a fitness center, business center, a heated indoor pool, seasonal outdoor pool, an on-site mini golf course and free parking.
The hotel also includes a 15,694-square-foot conference center with eight professional meeting rooms and two ballrooms. On-site full service catering and complimentary shuttle service is available.
Guests have several dining options at the hotel. Champions Grille is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring a menu of classic American cuisine. Quarter Pole Lounge offers drinks and light menu items.
Galveston tourism has made a full return to business with the reopening of the Galveston Railroad Museum on Sept. 6, according to the Galveston Island CVB. All beaches and major attractions are open.
The museum, which is located downtown, was the only major attraction on the island that had remained closed this week due to flood damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Galveston’s beaches and most major tourist attractions received minimal damages from the storm and reopened last week.
In addition, the Galveston Island CVB said 98% of businesses in historic downtown Galveston have reopened since the storm, according to a survey conducted by Galveston’s Downtown Partnership.
“We are fortunate to have fared well through the storm and made a quick bounce back,” said Kelly de Schaun, executive director of the Galveston Island CVB and Galveston Park Board. “I think it really speaks to the resiliency of our community and our commitment to southern hospitality.”
All of Galveston’s beach parks have reopened and are following their normal post-Labor Day schedules. Parking fees have been waived along the seawall and downtown through Sept. 14, 2017.
This weekend, the island will continue with popular events like Artwalk and Music Nite on The Strand. Both events are free and will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday in the historic downtown district.
Governors in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas all issued emergency declarations after shifting forecasts raised the threat of Hurricane Irma’s potential to strike the southeastern U.S. coast. On its current charted path, Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall in Florida early Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm.
Hurricane Irma could then move on to Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina sometime early next week, according to current forecasts from the National Hurricane Center. All areas have told residents to be on alert.
The storm has the potential to weaken a little on its current path by the time it reaches Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, but it would still likely pass through the area as a dangerous Category 3 storm.
Officials in Miami-Dade County and Broward County in Florida have already ordered evacuations for certain areas. Mandatory evacuations have also been ordered along the Georgia Coast, potentially for Saturday.
The New York Times and other national news outlets continue to offer live updates on Hurricane Irma, which was “churning over the Dominican Republic” at the time of this article's publication and was on its way toward Turks and Caicos. The storm “skirted past” Puerto Rico on Wednesday, according to NBC News, leaving more than one million residents without power. The extent of the damage was still being assessed in Puerto Rico on Thursday.
Visit Florida, Visit Orlando, The Florida Keys & Key West CVB, the Greater Miami CVB and Visit Fort Lauderdale have all posted updates on Hurricane Irma, including the latest safety and evacuation announcements.
The Visit Savannah website posted a notification directing visitors to chathamemergency.org.
Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available. As many news outlets have reported, the path of Hurricane Irma is still unclear, but safety precautions should be taken.
Friday 09.08.17 Update: Ahead of the weekend, Hurricane Irma was forecasted to move in a more westward route than was reported on Thursday. Right now the storm is anticipated to impact much of Florida starting with the Florida Keys late Saturday into early Sunday. Make sure to check the weather reports and follow all emergency precautions. Follow along with the National Hurricane Center for forecast updates. Stay safe out there!
U.S. Travel lowered its latest Travel Trends Index (TTI) after it said “a revised analysis reveals major storm clouds for the inbound international travel market.” The organization previously was optimistic in its reporting of international visitation, which was initially found to have grown consistently in 2017.
After updating its report with newly available data, U.S. Travel found that international visitation actually contracted in four of the seven months for which data is so far available. The declines were steepest in February (6.8 percent) and March (8.2 percent). U.S. Travel economists noted a slight uptick in April, which was likely “due to the travel-heavy Easter holiday falling in that month this year.”
U.S. Travel Association Senior Vice President for Research David Huether noted that the data revisions are in line with the international travel drop-off that the TTI has been predicting all year long.
“We kept projecting drops in international visitation, and they kept not materializing,” Huether said. “However, we ... were able to access new data inputs for the TTI to give us an even more comprehensive picture and ... the international travel segment has been far weaker than what was initially shown.”
The TTI is prepared for U.S. Travel by the research firm Oxford Economics. U.S. Travel and Oxford routinely seek to identify available data sources that add to the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the index. The data sets added to the latest TTI calculations came from IATA, OAG and other tabulations of international inbound travel to the U.S., and resulted in the downward revision of previous TTI results.
The updated TTI report is available in PDF form on the U.S. Travel website.
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, made landfall around 2 a.m. Eastern in Barbuda on Wednesday, according to recent reporting from The New York Times and other media outlets. The eye of the hurricane passed over Barbuda and was heading toward Puerto Rico and other Caribbean Islands as of the time of this update.
The hurricane reportedly tracked north over Antigua, which reported less damage than initially anticipated, but made a direct hit on Barbuda, a small island of about 2,000 people, knocking out phone lines and making it hard to fully assess the impact of the storm. The New York Times also wrote in its ongoing live updates that St. Barthélemy and St. Martin have reported major damage to buildings and other infrastructure.
Hurricane Irma’s next targets potentially include Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola—shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Cuba is also said to be threatened by Irma.
President Trump declared “a pre-landfall emergency” for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday evening, a move that allows FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the three areas.
Puerto Rico officials are worried that the island’s electric grid could be shut down for months in some areas and that winds from the hurricane could disable the island’s phone system and damage houses/infrastructure.
Meanwhile, cities in Florida are preparing for the worst, with USA Today reporting that the Key West International Airport plans to halt most flights on Wednesday evening. The Florida Keys & Key West CVB notified Meetings Today that "Delta still has three flights planned from Key West to Atlanta set for Thursday and American is flying two flights, one to Miami and one to Charlotte." The Miami Herald reported on Tuesday evening that the Miami-Dade area was planning its first major evacuation in 12 years ahead of Irma.
The Florida Keys' evacuation plans are detailed on the Florida Keys & Key West CVB website.
“Do not sit and wait to prepare,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said on Tuesday. “Get prepared now.”
Visit Florida, Visit Orlando, The Florida Keys & Key West CVB, the Greater Miami CVB and Visit Fort Lauderdale have all posted website updates with Hurricane Irma developments and emergency contacts.
Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available. As many news outlets have reported, the path of Hurricane Irma is still unclear, but safety precautions should be taken.
A new hurricane threat for the Caribbean, and potentially Florida or elsewhere along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts, emerged just days after Texas and Louisiana were slammed by Hurricane Harvey. As many in the U.S. were celebrating a long Labor Day weekend, Hurricane Irma strengthened over the Atlantic Ocean.
Now a Category 5 storm, with maximum winds nearing 185 miles per hour, Hurricane Irma is expected to make landfall as early as late Tuesday or early Wednesday in Antigua and Barbuda. Puerto Rico could begin to feel the impact of the storm by Wednesday afternoon and much of the Caribbean is on high alert.
According to The New York Times, Florida is “also increasingly likely to feel Irma’s effects later this week and during the weekend, though the storm’s potential impact on the state is not yet clear.” USA Today reported that cruise ships were changing their routes or returning to port early in advance of the Category 4-5 storm.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida declared a state of emergency on Monday for the state’s 67 counties. Flights between Miami and destinations in the Caribbean were canceled, with the potential for more cancellations incoming.
Stay tuned to the Meetings Today website for more updates as they become available. As many news outlets have reported, the path of Hurricane Irma is still unclear, but safety precautions should be taken.
Here's the latest recovery update from Visit Houston/Houston First following Hurricane Harvey.
"Hour by hour the landscape continues to change here, but progress is being made. You can follow along via this live webcam from the top of the George R. Brown Convention Center overlooking Discovery Green Park and Kinder Lake—the front yard of Avenida Houston.
Houston First continues to work closely with all major hotels, restaurants and retailers in the area to obtain the status of their operations. Here is an update on key facilities as of today:
- Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) and surrounding campus, Avenida Houston, is fully operational and has sustained minimal damage. The GRB continues to serve as an emergency shelter. As of Monday, Sept. 4, the GRB shelter population had dropped to just under 1,600 from its peak of over 10,000, and we expect this number to continue to decline as we work swiftly with local and national agencies to find transitional housing for those sheltered in our facility.
- Houston First has communicated with all groups planning to use the GRB through this fall. At this time, five groups planning to use the GRB through Sept 14th have been rescheduled for later dates in 2017, and all others will go on as planned. Our goal is to reopen with the Texas Society of Association Executives September 17-19.
- According to the Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston, roughly 95% of hotels in and around the Greater Houston area are open for business.
- Both George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby Airports resumed limited domestic passenger airline operations on Thursday, Aug. 31, and expect to be fully operational later this week.
- According to the Metro Transit Authority of Harris County, all METRORail routes, and the majority of local bus routes, resumed regular service Tuesday, Sept. 5. All park and ride facilities, as well as HOV/HOT lanes (with the exception of I-45 North) will resume normal operations Wednesday, Sept. 6.
- Avenida Houston restaurants connected to the GRB are preparing to re-open for business this week.
We have moved quickly from rescue to recovery and rebuilding.
In response to the many who’ve asked what they can do to help, we are in discussion with the hospitality community to set up a fund to help hospitality employees impacted by hurricane Harvey. We will provide more information as soon as arrangements have been made.
Houston First will provide its next update to media next week. We ask for your continued patience and understanding as we work through what has been an unprecedented natural disaster."
U.S. Travel launched a webpage offering links to organizations assisting with relief efforts as well as up-to-date travel information for affected areas.
Included on the webpage is:
WHERE TO DONATE
Donations may be made to the American Red Cross and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. A more comprehensive list of organizations providing support is available from Texas Monthly.
ASSISTANCE FROM THE HOTEL COMMUNITY
The Asian American Hotel Owners Association is asking Texas hoteliers to offer room nights for victims in need of temporary shelter. Hotel owners can fill out this survey if they are able and willing to do so.
For those who are currently traveling in Texas or planning to be, Texas Tourism has released a set of safety guidelines and resources.
Following is an update issued Friday, Sept. 1, by Visit Houston.
The people of Houston are humbled and grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of kindness, prayers and relief efforts we have received from across the country/globe. Countless examples of the Heart of Houston emerged over the past week. The strength, resilience and genuine kindness displayed by friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and complete strangers truly encapsulate the spirit of this special city.
Visit Houston is especially proud of our six employees who expertly converted the George R. Brown Convention Center into a fully functioning emergency shelter, ready to take in community members within a mere 90 minutes of receiving the call to action. It is this passion, hard work and determination that gives us hope for the future of this great city.
“We are proud of the way Houstonians have rallied around one another to help their neighbors and their communities as we begin the long process of recovering and rebuilding. Houstonians are resilient and we’ll emerge from this stronger than ever,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are also encouraged by the business community’s commitment to helping Houston through this. As the flood waters recede and the airports begin to return to normal, we encourage our convention visitors to not cancel their plans, and we thank those conventions who have ensured us they are still coming. Your support is critical in helping Houston recover and rebuild.”
Hour by hour the landscape changes here, but progress is being made. You can follow along via this live webcam from the top of the George R. Brown Convention Center overlooking Discovery Green Park and Kinder Lake -- the front yard of Avenida Houston.
Visit Houston continues to work closely with all major hotels, restaurants and retailers in the area to obtain the status of their operations. Here is an update on key facilities as of today:
- Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) and surrounding campus, Avenida Houston, is currently fully functional and has sustained minimal damage. The GRB continues to serve as an emergency shelter. As of Friday, Sept. 1, the GRB shelter population had dropped to just under 2,000, from its peak of over 10,000 and we expect this number to decline as we work swiftly with local and national agencies to find transitional housing for those sheltered in our facilities.
- We have communicated with all groups planning to use the GRB through this fall. At this time, five groups planning to use the GRB through Sept 14th have been rescheduled for later dates in 2017, and all others are currently on schedule as planned. Our current goal is to reopen with the Texas Society of Association Executives September 17-19. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the meetings and hospitality industry,” says John Solis, Senior VP of Sales. “As of this morning we have had no groups cancel their meetings for 2017, and we are confident we will meet, and in true Houston fashion, exceed their expectations.”
- According to the most recent reports, surrounding hotels in downtown Houston sustained minimal damage and are fully operational. According to the Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston, roughly 95% of hotels in and around the Greater Houston area are open for business.
- Both George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby Airports resumed limited domestic passenger airline operations on Thursday, Aug. 31, with the expectation to be fully operational next week.
“I am so proud of the Greater Houston community, the selfless desire to help each other is truly inspirational. Clearly hospitality is in our DNA,” said Mike Waterman, president of Visit Houston.
We understand the uncertainty this creates for so many who had plans to visit Houston. We have moved quickly from rescue to recovery and rebuilding. Many have asked, how can we help. We are in discussion with the hospitality community to set up a fund to help hospitality employees impacted by hurricane Harvey. We will provide that information as soon as we have it.
Visit Houston will provide its next update to media on Tuesday, Sept. 5. We ask for your patience and understanding as we work through what has been an unprecedented natural disaster.
Landry’s sent an email on Thurs., Aug. 31, notifying media outlets that its Houston-area hotels remain open for business. The message noted “hotel reservations are being accepted based on availability.”
The following hotels were listed as “open for business.”
- Boardwalk Inn, 8 Kemah Water Front, Kemah, TX
281-334-9880 | kemahboardwalkinn.com
- The Hilton Galveston Island Resort, 5400 Seawall Dr., Galveston, TX
409-744-5000 | galvestonhilton.com
- The Holiday Inn Galveston – On The Beach, 5002 Seawall Dr., Galveston, TX
409-740-5300 | galvestonholidayinn.com
- The San Luis Hotel, 5222 Seawall Dr., Galveston, TX
800-392-5937 | sanluisresort.com
- The Villas at The San Luis Resort, 5222 Seawall Dr., Galveston, TX
800-392-5937 | villasatsanluisresort.com
- The Westin Houston Downtown, 1520 Texas St., Houston, TX
713-228-1520 | westinhoustondowntown.com
It is recommended that anyone visiting or holding future events at these properties check in with the hotel via their primary contact or using the phone numbers listed above and on the websites.
Viceroy Hotel Group announced that Viceroy Chicago, the latest addition to the Viceroy Icon Collection and the brand's first property in the Midwest, will open its doors to locals and guests on Friday, Sept. 1.
Located in the heart of the Gold Coast neighborhood, the 180-room modern luxury hotel is located on the site of the former historic Cedar Hotel and features culinary concepts from Boka Restaurant Group.
Positioned at the intersection of Cedar and State Streets, this urban resort rises a magnificent 18-stories and is home to the neighborhood's first rooftop pool. This rooftop space, in addition to floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the hotel, affords guests sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the cityscape.
Viceroy Chicago is also steps away from top Chicago attractions including Lake Michigan, the Magnificent Mile, and some of the city's favorite high-end storefronts and boutiques on Oak Street.
"A hub for culture, cuisine, and style, Chicago is the ideal location to start Viceroy Hotel Group's journey into the Midwest," said Bill Walshe, CEO of Viceroy Hotel Group. "We're proud to make our Chicago debut in partnership with hotel owner Convexity Properties, with whom we share a passion for creating distinct, memorable experiences, and who are a team with a unique knowledge of this incredible city."
Viceroy Chicago includes the highly-anticipated restaurant Somerset, helmed by James Beard Award finalist Lee Wolen of Chicago-based Boka Restaurant Group. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the hotel and hosts a large landscaped and tree-lined patio. Wolen's curated menu features flavor-forward and approachable dishes and highlights the best in seasonal, local ingredients.
In addition to making all of the pastries and breads in-house daily, James Beard-nominated pastry chef Meg Galus will serve seasonal desserts, specialty sundaes, parfaits and homemade chocolate bars. Chef Wolen also oversees the culinary offerings for the hotel's year-round rooftop lounge Devereaux, as well in-room dining, catering and events. In addition, the hotel has 3,600 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 2,200-square-foot Cedar Ballroom and adjoining outdoor Lakeview Terrace.
VisitDallas Director of Communications Stephanie Faulk shared a couple new web resources for planners wondering how they can help Harvey victims and who are looking for updates on the convention center.
Dallas Help for Harvey provides some updates on disaster relief efforts currently underway in the city. Meanwhile, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center updated its website with more information.
“All planned events will occur as scheduled,” reads a statement at the top of the convention center’s web page. “If you have specific questions about your event, please contact your Event Coordinator.”
Attorney Tyra Hilliard recently offered up some “lawyerly advice” to those with affected events.
PORT ARTHUR/BEAUMONT, Texas
Tropical Storm Harvey (now a tropical depression) brought rain and flooding to Port Arthur, Texas, forcing those who took shelter within the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center to evacuate on Wed., Aug. 30. Pictures circulated on social media of the makeshift shelter’s rows of cots sitting in murky flood water. Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman jumped on Facebook Live to assure residents that rescue efforts were underway.
“Our whole city is underwater right now but we are coming,” Freeman posted Wednesday on Facebook. “If you called, we are coming. Please get to higher ground if you can, but please [stay] out of attics.”
Evacuees were reportedly moved to the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, about five miles south of the flooded Bowers Civic Center, according to The Weather Channel and other media outlets.
Port Arthur is part of the larger Beaumont-Port Arthur Metro. Beaumont is dealing with a crisis of its own after the city lost its water supply indefinitely. See this Huffington Post article and The New York Times for more info.
Beaumont has a population of more than 118,000 and hosts its fair share of meetings and events. Read more on how our industry can help Harvey evacuees in southeastern Texas and elsewhere here.
Omni Hotels & Resorts and the Dallas Cowboys officially cut the ribbon at the Omni Frisco Hotel in a ceremony Friday morning (Aug. 25, 2017). Located at The Star, the Omni Frisco Hotel presents itself as the epitome of luxury in North Texas. With rooms and decor designed to showcase the heritage of the Cowboys and the City of Frisco, along with top-notch culinary experiences, the hotel is the lifestyle destination of Frisco.
The Omni Frisco Hotel officially opened on July 24, 2017.
“The Omni Frisco Hotel is the pinnacle of luxury in North Texas and we were thrilled today to welcome our guests from around the community to come and experience the hotel for the first time,” said Robert Rowling, owner and chairman, TRT Holdings, Inc. “It has truly been a pleasure working with the Jones family and the Cowboys organization, as well as the City of Frisco, on this project and we cannot wait to see all the great things that continue to happen here at The Star and Omni Frisco Hotel.”
Attendees experienced highlighted areas of the hotel, including Neighborhood Services, which launched its new brunch menu, exclusive to the Omni Frisco Hotel. Guests enjoyed signature cocktails from the hotel’s fourth floor pool deck with its accompanying bar and grill—the Edge Bar. They enjoyed views of the outdoor field at Ford Center, Cowboys Fit and the forthcoming retail spaces at The Star. In addition, guests sampled light fare from the hotel’s Lobby Bar, which features select wines curated by the hotel’s master sommelier and a selection of specialty cheeses by artisanal cheesemongers.
The hotel, its lobby and common areas were built to embrace a true social and culinary experience.
Additional event highlights included a visit to Charlotte Jones Collection, a retail experience within the hotel named after Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer Charlotte Jones Anderson. Guests were able to shop a variety of collections offered in the boutique from clothing by PAIGE Denim and EQUIPMENT to jewelry by Alexis Bittar and even pet items from Smathers & Branson.
The Voice contestant, Josh Liberio provided entertainment in the grand ballroom while guests were able to take in the meeting space. Additionally, attendees were able to preview elegant wedding tablescapes and enjoy items from the hotel’s banquet menu. Finally, located on the 16th floor of the Omni Frisco Hotel, guests were able to tour the two-bedroom Presidential Suite, which features luxurious living spaces including a separate living room and a dining room with seating for eight. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of The Star, the Dallas Cowboys’ practice fields and the Championship Plaza.
“The Omni Frisco Hotel is truly a focal point of the luxury and entertainment experience we offer here at The Star,” said Dallas Cowboys GM Jerry Jones. “This hotel will cater not only to guests and fans from all over the country, but also the community of Frisco and visitors of The Star and Ford Center. Working with Omni has been a great pleasure and I personally cannot wait to see what the future holds for both of our brands.”
Omni Frisco Hotel, the official hotel of the Dallas Cowboys, features 300 guest rooms and suites, and 24,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 13,000-square-foot ballroom. The 16-story property serves as the cornerstone hotel of The Star development, which is anchored by the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters and Ford Center. Gensler and Wilson Associates handled architecture and design.
Kyle Edmiston of the Louisiana Office of Tourism was named national State Tourism Director of the Year for 2017. Edmiston was announced as the honoree before more than 850 of his peers at the U.S. Travel Association’s annual ESTO conference, held this year in Minneapolis. The U.S. Travel Association’s National Council of State Tourism Directors—a body representing the tourism offices of all states and U.S. territories—votes on the award annually ahead of ESTO, an annual gathering for destination marketing professionals.
“Louisiana tourism numbers are stronger than ever thanks to Kyle and his team at the Louisiana Office of Tourism, and this award is an acknowledgement of his years of outstanding work and commitment to our industry,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Kyle’s forward-thinking commitment to increasing international and out-of-state visitation to Louisiana has done wonders for the state’s economy. Quite simply, he is proof that state tourism promotion works. Kyle’s incredibly effective advocacy for travel to the Pelican State has greatly benefited ... the entire southern region.”
“It is no surprise that Kyle received this prestigious award,” said Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungeser. “Five years of record-breaking tourism numbers to Louisiana and new, exciting initiatives rolled out to increase the visitor’s experience are just a few reasons this award is well-deserved.”
As Assistant Secretary of Tourism, Edmiston is charged with directing the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s activities promoting, marketing and selling the state as a travel destination for domestic and international visitors. Since Edmiston’s tenure began in 2012, Louisiana has set new records each year for visitation, visitor spending and revenue generated for the state. From 2012-2016, visitation to Louisiana nearly doubled, from 24.3 million to 46.7 million annual visitors. During that same period, visitor spending grew from $10.1 billion annually to $16.8 billion annually, and tax revenue generated for the state general fund grew from $719 million to $1.04 billion.
Importantly, Edmiston has brought a renewed focus on the international traveler to Louisiana’s destination marketing efforts. His office was an early partner of Brand USA, a connection that has paid dividends for Louisiana’s economy: in 2015, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office, Louisiana saw a 36 percent increase in international visitation, the second-highest of any state. Edmiston was instrumental in bringing IPW, an international travel marketplace, to New Orleans in 2016, coordinating seven familiarization trips for international tour operators and media in Louisiana.
Candidates for State Tourism Director of the Year are nominated by a panel of state and territory tourism directors. A slate of three finalists is presented for selection by ballot. The winner is announced at ESTO.
PCMA and the PCMA Education Foundation announced the launch of the PCMA Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, with the goal of “uniting members of the business-events industry to contribute to [relief] efforts.”
The fund was created to provide assistance directly to those working in the meetings and events industry. PCMA set a fundraising target of $25,000.
“We applaud our colleagues in the hospitality communities across the Lone Star State for their hard work to help their friends, families and neighbors,” said Deborah Sexton, president and CEO, PCMA. “I invite everyone in the business-events community to help our colleagues who are struggling with the aftermath of [the storm]."
“After the initial emergency response phase, the area will need more help,” Sexton said. “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to help southeastern Texas emerge from this disaster.”
An article from PCMA listed the following information on how to donate to the fund.
How You Can Help
If you live in the U.S. Text to 41444. Enter prefix “HELPTX,” the dollar amount, your first name and last name — e.g., HELPTX 50 Jane Doe. You will then receive a link to complete the process of your payment.
If you live outside of the U.S. Visit the Foundation’s donation page here and be sure to enter HELPTX in the “I give because” box and your donation will be directed to the PCMA Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
Read more on the events industry’s efforts to help Harvey victims on the PCMA website.
Visit Houston provided its first official storm update in the afternoon on Tues., Aug. 29. Visit Dallas also provided Meetings Today with an update on the city’s shelter efforts to aid those displaced by Harvey.
Visit Houston First Update 08.29.17
“Over these last few days, the residents of this great city have shown the true Heart of Houston, and demonstrated how resilient and caring a community can be under the most trying circumstances. We are proud of the efforts of so many Houstonians who have come to the aid of their fellow man in these trying times.
"While Harvey’s rains will soon leave this city, much work remains to be done. We are so grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from around the nation, and the many donations to local charities that will be needed to help support those who have lost so much.
“Houston First is working closely with all major convention hotels and facilities in the area to get a status of their operations. Here is the update on key facilities as of today [Aug. 29, 2017]:
- At the moment, Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center is serving as an emergency shelter for thousands who have been left homeless. The convention center is fully functional and the convention campus, Avenida Houston, sustained no damage. At this point it’s too early to say how long the facility will be used in that capacity.
- According to the most recent reports, surrounding hotels in downtown Houston sustained no damage and are fully operational.
- Both airports are expected to be operational by the end of the week.
- Many of the facilities in Houston’s Theatre District have sustained damage. Evaluations are currently underway to determine the extent of the damage, and its impact on future operations.
“We understand the uncertainty this creates for so many who had plans to visit Houston. The staff at Houston First will provide its next update on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. We ask for your patience and understanding as we work through what has been an unparalleled natural disaster.”
VisitDallas Email Update to Meetings Today on 08.29.17
Stephanie Faulk, director of communications with VisitDallas, referred to an official statement that was released by VisitDallas from President and CEO Phillip J. Jones, and also provided further updates.
“The [Kay Bailey Hutchison] shelter affects one level of the convention center and no groups have been displaced. Physically, Dallas is fine and we have experienced no effects from the storm. Clear skies here.
“As you can imagine, things are changing rapidly but I’m happy to keep you updated. Dallas ran very successful shelter efforts after Katrina and Rita and we feel the city is well-equipped for Harvey.
“We’ll be launching a site soon with updated information and will send that along.”
Stay tuned to MeetingsToday.com for more information when it becomes available.
The Crowne Plaza Denver, part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), completed a multi-year, $22 million hotel renovation. The update includes the new Plaza Workspace design pilot as well as the WorkLife guest room. These design elements are part of the Crowne Plaza Accelerate program, a $200 million, multi-year brand transformation initiative created to enhance hotels for business travelers.
As part of the renovation, The Crowne Plaza Denver also added 16 new guest rooms, a brand new fitness center, a grab-and-go Marketplace and a new restaurant, The Lockwood Kitchen & Bar.
“The Crowne Plaza Accelerate program is exciting across the board for our entire brand, and here in Denver we are honored to be on the forefront of the new offerings for our loyal Crowne Plaza guests,” said Sacha Jurva, general manager of Crowne Plaza Denver. “The new Plaza Workspace, coupled with our new restaurant, The Lockwood Kitchen & Bar, opens our hotel up to local business within [Denver].”
The Plaza Workspace within the Crowne Plaza Denver, located throughout the lobby, was designed to complement the ever-changing business travelers’ needs. Plaza Workspace offerings include everything from solo soundproofed pods to a sound-buffering sofa nook for up to six people to gather in semi-privacy with touch screens for on-demand food and tech support. These new work spaces include:
- Huddle Spots: A bespoke item of furniture designed to offer privacy in a public space. Its purpose is to promote and support ad hoc, informal meetings and social meet-ups while providing ‘on-demand’ service and a digital food ordering system.
- Pods: Single seat, high back and sound buffering stations that are available on a first come, first serve basis, and ideal for guests looking to work alone and take calls in private, but still be within a public space. Amenities include integrated power and USB charging.
- Nook: Nooks are high-backed, sound-buffering sofas that can accommodate four to six people. They provide publicly private work and leisure space for guests located close to the restaurant and bar, and within the lobby. Amenities include a screen with HDMI connectivity for sharing; table for shared work and leisure use; integrated service call button for F&B needs.
- The Studio: A private space designed for small groups to meet, get work done and unwind at the end of the day. These spaces are designed to support a wide variety of small meeting styles ranging from the more formal meeting with clients to more relaxed and collaborative sessions.
- The Marketplace: Available 24/7, The Marketplace is a premium, self-serve outlet that offers a variety of healthy, fresh, local and traditional “grab & go” food and beverage options.
Crowne Plaza’s WorkLife room aims to redefine the guest room experience with a flexible environment featuring distinct zones that encourage guests to work, relax and recharge their way. A modern, purposeful design puts guests in full control of their stay with the following key features:
- Angled bed: Opens up more space for the distinct zones.
- Sofa Nook: A sofa nook with many functions: guests can use the multi-purpose space for reading, watching TV, working, meeting with colleagues or kicking back with room service.
- Desk Area: A distraction-less desk workspace where guests can focus.
- Welcome Station: A welcome station gets guests settled with a space for keys, bags and coats. Wi-Fi is free, and many USB and power outlets are available for those carrying multiple devices.
- Bathroom: A modern and bright bathroom helps guests feel re-energized by their routines.
The Lockwood Kitchen & Bar is said to be one of the major highlights of the $22 million renovation, offering guests regionally inspired cuisine that compliments the Mile High City. Executive Chef Alberto Avila's locally inspired dishes feature traditional favorites such as Colorado farm-raised cattle, buffalo, lamb and more to compliment the specialty cocktails and local craft beers. The Lockwood Kitchen & Bar's signature cocktail is the Colorado Old Fashioned, made with local 291 Colorado Whiskey.
As more renowned chefs are getting into the "quick-service boom” trend, Chef Alberto is serving up a Lunch Crunch and Grab n Go Breakfast Burritos at The Lockwood Kitchen & Bar for everyday patrons.
Crowne Plaza Denver offers more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space across eight rooms.
None of the scheduled meetings or events at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be affected in its shelter efforts, according to Marketing & Communications Manager C.C. Gonzalez-Kurz.
Gonzalez-Kurz also provided an update on the weather in Dallas, noting the city “has received minimal rain, but overall weather has not been impacted.”
The Dallas Observer reported that the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is “ready for guests ... whenever they arrive ... for as long as it takes,” according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. At the time of this update, the city of Dallas employees and volunteers had successfully converted the first floor of the convention center’s air-conditioned parking garage into a 5,000 capacity shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
More information is available in the full article from The Dallas Observer.
Stories of hope and heroism have emerged within the news about first responders who are on the ground in Houston, working to evacuate those who remain stranded due to flooding and other hazards. Many of us not on the scene, in the hospitality industry and beyond, are wondering how we can help.
Some in our industry are already lending a hand to assist those in Houston and elsewhere in Texas that were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. Destinations International President and CEO Don Welsh released a message to association members yesterday with a list of organizations helping to keep people safe.
“Destinations International will be making a contribution to the American Red Cross,” Welsh said. “We encourage you to take a moment and donate to one of the many organizations helping storm victims.”
Fern Exhibitions, an exhibitions services provider in Cincinnati, Ohio, set up disaster relief stations in eight cities to help collect emergency supplies.
NPR and other media outlets have noted that sending cash is often more valuable than supplies. And long-term donations can be just as important as short-term.
Update: PCMA also launched a Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to support those in the industry. U.S. Travel released a How to Help page. Most recently the EIC compiled a list of ways event professionals can help with recovery.
For those wondering how they can contribute to relief efforts right now, here are some resources:
FEMA also released an official statement on how to best help disaster survivors in Texas.
The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston was activated as an emergency shelter for those displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday. According to the Houston Chronicle, rescue workers were shuttling families from the nearby Clayton Holmes housing complex northeast of downtown to the convention center.
The Red Cross is currently in charge of emergency operations at the convention center—which includes the setting up of carrying cots and passing out of blankets, food and other necessities—and the Houston Chronicle reported that at least 1,000 evacuees were expected to take shelter within the event facility’s walls. Other articles suggested that number will grow.
“This will be a fully functioning Red Cross shelter, a safe space for people to reside in,” Charlie Maltbie, an American Red Cross regional disaster officer, told the Houston Chronicle on Sunday. Maltbie was deployed from Indiana to manage the shelter.
Hurricane Harvey tore across the Gulf Coast region of Texas over the weekend, resulting in at least five deaths and more than a dozen injuries, according to the latest reporting from The New York Times. On Sunday, the system was downgraded to a tropical storm, but it continued to pound the region with rain, resulting in major flooding that affected several cities in Texas, including Harris County and Houston.
The National Weather Service forecast rainfall of 15 to 25 inches through Fri., Sept. 1, with as much as 50 inches in a few areas. On Mon., Aug. 28, Dallas was preparing the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center for use as a mega shelter to house more Hurricane Harvey evacuees seeking safety.
According the TV news affiliate NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth, the city of Dallas said it plans to have the convention center ready to accommodate 5,000 people by Tuesday morning, with help from the Red Cross.
FEMA estimated that Tropical Storm Harvey will drive more than 30,000 to shelters.
USA Today reported that federal emergency officials are bracing to help with recovery efforts in Texas and other states hit by Harvey for years to come. The national news outlet also said flights at both Houston airports remained grounded Monday, and that flight cancellations have topped 5,000, and will extend into Tuesday.
In other related news, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suspended the collection of hotel and motel taxes during Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey on Friday. The suspension will remain in place through Wed., Sept. 6.
Gas prices are expected to rise due to the storm, which hit a refinery-rich stretch of the Gulf Coast.
Here are some ways to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, as compiled by USA Today.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.
Meetings industry attorney Tyra Hilliard is advising meeting planners who may have events affected by Hurricane Harvey to reach out to the facilities they’ve contracted with to gauge whether their meeting can still be held, and what liability they may or may not face in the case of cancellation.
“In my mind, I mentally draw concentric circles around Houston,” Hilliard said. “You know Houston is paralyzed and hundreds of miles around that are paralyzed—it’s beyond that you get into legal gray areas.”
Hilliard said she’s heard that as many as 5,000 flights have been canceled, which will cause a large degree of disruption throughout the U.S. flight grid.
“When any flights are canceled, especially that many, it’s going to cause disruptions all across the U.S.,” she said, adding that while areas within a couple of hundred miles of Houston are “no-brainer” force majeure situations, areas such as San Antonio and Dallas, Shreveport, La., and even New Orleans may become relevant in a force majeure aspect.
Another sticky legal situation may be created by the use of convention centers in Houston and Dallas as emergency relief areas.
“When we use clauses in contracts like conflicting groups, you want to be sympathetic, but that’s a whole lot of strangers there when you’re bringing in your C-level attendees,” she said, adding that many attendees may choose not to travel, even by car, to areas they think have been affected.
“First contact the venue or whoever you’re contracting with to see where they stand,” Hilliard advised. “In cases like this, venues are usually pretty generous about letting people get out of contracts for force majeure, and then depending on what happens there, planners should then contact their lawyer. And their insurance provider is just as important to get in contact with as their lawyer, because they may have to use their event cancellation insurance.”
Besides the potential for legal issues surrounding the cancellation of meetings, Hilliard stressed that the meetings and conventions industry is pretty resilient when it comes to recovering after natural disasters.
“People are much more resilient with natural disasters than they are with terrorism events,” she pointed out. “It’s a hard time, but it will turn around. Soon it will be ‘Let’s take our meetings to Houston’ [to help with the city’s recovery effort].”
DoubleTree by Hilton McLean Tysons, a newly renovated hotel in the tech corridor of Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., is the latest addition to the growing portfolio of hotels from DoubleTree by Hilton.
Situated directly adjacent to the Tysons Central Silver Line Metro Station and nearby to Tysons Galleria and Tysons Corner Center, the hotel ushers in modern-day business advantages for guests. Through its multimillion-dollar transformation, the property now features 168 fully-upgraded guest rooms and has plans underway to unveil 5,700 square feet of state-of-the-art meetings and event space. Rooms and public spaces were designed to offer guests a comfortable, functional and engaging environment.
“Tysons Corner, home to a number of Fortune 500 companies—Including Hilton—continues to grow as a business hub and as a destination for dining, shopping and entertainment,” said Dianna Vaughan, global head and senior vice president, DoubleTree by Hilton. “We look forward to welcoming this DoubleTree by Hilton to our neighborhood, knowing that guests will be delighted by [the memorable service].”
Additional hotel features and amenities include:
- DoubleTree by Hilton McLean Tysons offers two dining options. Located on the lower level, the hotel’s full-service restaurant and bar features locally sourced, seasonal pub fare with classics such as burgers, flatbreads and daily specials. It offers a robust beer program with a number of local craft beers from the nearby Loudoun County Ale Trail in Virginia.
- The second level dining room serves daily full breakfast and can be used for private functions with customized, seasonal catering menus. This flexible space can accommodate up to 100 for private events and overlooks the property’s light-filled courtyard.
- The hotel’s amenities include an indoor, heated, junior Olympic-sized pool—one of the largest in Northern Virginia—with an outdoor sundeck; a 24-hour gym with cardio equipment, free weights and machines; and complimentary standard Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
- The nine-floor hotel will feature more than 5,700 square feet of state-of-the-art meetings and event space, which can be tailored to traveler needs through an array of configurations. From large corporate events to intimate weddings, the flexible space includes a four-section ballroom, a private entrance to banquet space, expansive pre-function space and collaborative space. The outdoor garden patio with tent is ideal for receptions and other special events.
DoubleTree by Hilton McLean Tysons offers several packages to meet various event needs. The Meetings Simplified Package starts at $55 per person and includes the meeting room, complimentary standard Wi-Fi, flip chart and all-day beverage service. Additional packages include breaks, lunches and extra AV capabilities. The Daily Meeting Package includes the meeting room, all-day beverage service, continental breakfast, lunch and a selection of afternoon specialty breaks.
Owned and managed by B. F. Saul Company Hospitality Group, DoubleTree by Hilton McLean Tysons is located about 14 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport.
Major exhibitions services provider Fern, based in Cincinnati, has set up relief stations in eight cities to help get emergency supplies to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which slammed South Texas over the weekend and is causing catastrophic flooding in Houston.
“We took and designated eight of our locations to be collection points to send supplies to Houston and South Texas," said Aaron Bludworth, president and CEO of Fern. “Our initial target is [Houston’s George R. Brown] Convention Center, which is being used as a shelter. If that needs to be transitioned, we’ll move it to another facility.
“The center just became a shelter yesterday, and they have an overwhelming crowd they’re trying to deal with,” Bludworth continued. “Now Dallas is setting up a major relief center [within its convention center].”
Fern has set up relief supply stations in Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Nashville; Louisville, Ky.; Kansas City; and Charlotte. Requested items include baby formula, hand sanitizer, towels, diapers, toothpaste, soap/shampoo, socks, pillows, blankets, sweatsuits, non-perishable food and bottled water.
To see a full list of participating locations, click here.
Although Fern doesn’t currently have a permanent presence in Houston, Bludworth said the company is a regular operator there for meetings and conventions.
“I’ve talked to friends and associates not related to the [conventions] business in Houston, and it’s pretty devastated there,” Bludworth said, adding that local CVBs have yet to make announcements of shows that have cancelled, or set a timeline for when convention facilities may be back online.
“We’re a little bit fortunate that August is a slow time of the year, but we’re very close to September and October, which are some of the busiest times of the year,” he said, adding that he is keeping an eye on New Orleans to see how hard that major meetings destination may be affected.
The federal government declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on Monday.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts announced the addition of the Best Western Premier Detroit Southfield Hotel. The property, located less than seven miles from the Detroit Zoo, is Best Western’s first Premier-branded hotel in the Great Lake State. The hotel’s grand opening is planned for Sept. 13, 2017.
“The Best Western Premier Detroit Southfield Hotel is a beautifully renovated property located in the heart of the Southfield business district and a great addition to the Premier brand,” said Ron Pohl, senior VP and COO for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “Our Premier brand offers the upscale experience expected from today’s business and leisure travelers and this hotel will exceed those expectations.”
Owned by Kiwi Hospitality, Best Western Premier Detroit Southfield is located less than 25 miles from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and is close to Downtown Detroit and Heritage Park.
The property features 196 recently renovated guest rooms, that have been redesigned to ensure guests experience superior comfort. The top floor of the Best Western Premier Detroit Southfield offers eight penthouse suites and the 15th floor contains executive suites and standard suites. All of the guest rooms provide a connectivity panel that accommodates HDMI, VGA and Audio/Video power sockets.
The property also includes an on-site restaurant, the Nomad Grill—operated by Detroit-based, The Epicurean Group—which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a bar built from wood blocks, reclaimed metal panels and pipes. Menu items include Jambalaya Risotto and Wagyu Meatloaf.
Additional amenities include 20,000 square feet of meeting space, and business and fitness centers.
The Event Tech Tribe announced the launch of InsightXM, its newest technology offering created for event marketers and planners. InsightXM is described as “an event intelligence platform that captures, analyzes and visualizes event data to better inform business decisions.” It will act as a centralized focal point for data from the full range of Event Tech Tribe products, which includes Swoogo, Hubb, TRC and Glisser.
“The platform will effectively consolidate all the disconnected data that event professionals get bombarded with,” said Leonora Valvo, Swoogo CEO and Event Tech Tribe founder. "It’s not only huge for us, but it’s game changing for the industry."
InsightXM's mission is to provide actionable insights about events in a single, intuitive dashboard.
“Data Science is the fastest growing technology in the event tech ecosystem, yet nobody has really nailed how to make sense of the copious amounts of information produced before, during and after events,” said TRC founder Greg Lazzaro. “InsightXM ... changes that.”
The Event Tech Tribe noted the platform, which is set to be unveiled at IMEX America in October, has undergone an extensive year of research and development to optimize it for event planners and marketers.
“We’ve been pouring huge resources into the InsightXM platform this past year,” said InsightXM CEO Brent Pearson. “Along with [Event Tech Tribe] data, we’re building integrations with key business marketing tools and CRMs so we can provide event professionals with insights that are both holistic and useful.”
Originally the brainchild of Swoogo’s Leonora Valvo, the data science platform has since been acquired by Pearson who is excited to be preparing the product for its re-launch in October. The Event Tech Tribe, which was formed in 2016, now consists of five event technology providers that connect to one another via multi-directional APIs. It was created to offer planners an alternative to the "all-in-one" event technology houses.
The Miami Beach Convention Center announced it will feature a state-of-the-art sustainable design and eco-conscious operational procedures when it reopens in 2018. More than a $615-million construction project, the development of the Miami Beach Convention Center is said to represent the destination's engineering commitment to combatting, and understanding, the impact of climate change and sea level rise. The Miami Beach Convention Center is on track to receive LEED Silver certification upon being fully open in 2018.
“The Miami Beach Convention Center project reflects our commitment to not only being a world-class destination for meetings/conventions and events, but a home for some of the most advanced environmental thought leadership and sustainable technology,” said Greater Miami CVB President & CEO William D. Talbert, III.
Following are some sustainable highlights of the project.
Sustainable Design Decisions
A renovation and expansion—as opposed to a new build—requires creative design and savvy technology to maximize sustainability. One of the development’s most impactful contributions to the destination will be the significant landscaping surrounding the convention center.
Providing greenspace for convention attendees and locals, the six acres of trees and greenery will also aid in cooling the area and improving air quality (and will replace more than six acres of asphalt). More than 200 trees at the site are being saved and replanted when the convention center debuts next year, in addition to 300+ new trees. The showpiece of the tree-space will be the Strangler Tree, a specimen tree that the convention center’s Grand Ballroom’s pre-function and outdoor space have been carefully designed around.
One of the building’s most striking design elements are the dramatic fin-like structures that line the side of and entrance to the building. In addition to being architecturally impactful these fins will offer shade to reduce heat load indoors. This fin design plus lighting modifications—including bay lighting to take advantage of natural sunlight, high-efficiency units and LED bulbs—will result in a 20 percent reduction in energy use.
The Miami Beach Convention Center will install solar panels above the parking areas, complete with electric-car charging stations, before completion of renovations.
Sourcing & Recycling
The Miami Beach Convention Center said a central focus of its sustainability efforts is both taking from and giving back to the local community. More than 20 percent of the materials used in the renovation have been locally sourced within Miami and Florida.
As the convention center nears its 2018 reopening, the site continues to sort more than 95 percent of construction waste for recycling, and has thus far diverted more than 38,000 tons of waste to recycling. Green, compostable service items (from plates to forks) are being used for both current and future meetings, while food waste programs have also been put in place to donate as much food product as possible to nonprofits.
The convention center will also continue to collect and donate leftover paper and writing utensils to local Miami schools. And opportunities abound already for meetings and associations to take part in the destination’s commitment to preserving and giving back to the local community, such as group beach cleanups.
A central challenge and benefit of the Miami Beach Convention Center is its location near the Miami International Airport and mere blocks from the beach and Atlantic Ocean. At the forefront of the sea level rise discussion, the destination has taken into account preparing the site for the potential impacts of climate change. All critical systems in the convention center will be located on the second floor of the building, which is higher than standard second floors due to the raised-base elevation of the entire site.
Water management is critical to the site’s design—from pump stations to manage storm water to low-flow, high-efficiency units to reduce the amount of waste water generated. Even the convention center’s cleaning products are water-conscious, with a system that turns waste water into product.
TIANXIN DISTRICT, Changsha, China
Grand Hyatt Changsha, the first Grand Hyatt hotel in China’s Hunan Province, celebrated its grand opening. The 354-room hotel crowns a 61-story tower on Xiangjiang Road and offers breathtaking views of Xiang River and the city skyline. A riverfront landmark just steps from Changsha’s historic sites, Grand Hyatt Changsha is looking to become a top destination for impressive views and unforgettable dining.
“We are thrilled to bring the Grand Hyatt brand to the vibrant city of Changsha, and to further expand the brand’s presence in central China,” said Christopher Koehler, VP of China Operations, Hyatt.
Grand Hyatt Changsha is located in the Tianxin district, the cultural and commercial heart of the city. Guests can delve into Changsha’s unique history, architecture and food culture at Pozi Street and Taiping Old Street, enjoy the scenic riverside promenade of Du Fu Pavilion or visit high-end shopping mall Hisense Plaza, which is directly beneath the hotel. An ideal base for business travelers, the hotel is a 45-minute drive from Huanghua International Airport and Changsha South high-speed railway station.
Additionally, the hotel is near the Wuyi Business District and Middle Xiangjiang Road metro station.
Grand Hyatt Changsha includes more than 37,000 square feet of event space, including a 12,500-square-foot Grand Ballroom with river views and floor-to-ceiling windows and the Grand Residence replete with a live kitchen. Guests will be able to create bold events, supported by on-site catering and event teams.
FORT WORTH, Texas
The DFW Airport Marriott South Hotel, located in the Centreport Business Park near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, invested $10 million since last July to rejuvenate the 17-year old property.
Guests at the hotel will experience modernized guest rooms with fresh new design and color scheme, updated bathroom layout, and new in-room entertainment platform. All the public areas have also been completely recreated including a new Great Room gathering area for meals, cocktails and socializing. In addition, the hotel has created four rooms that can be converted from junior suites to board rooms.
“We’re excited to debut our new space,” said Jan Vanco, general manager. “Our guests will enjoy a totally refreshed and renewed experience, from an impressive sense of arrival—including an integrated great room in the lobby, to an updated modern guest room, and a re-imagined restaurant and bar.”
As guests enter the lobby they will be quickly transported to a contemporary new hotel space with touches of local influence. Guests will then continue into an area with new seating groups that will encourage guests to relax and enjoy a quiet moment, hold a small meeting or gather with friends.
This area flows into a new restaurant concept inside the DFW Airport Marriott South. Doc’s Bar & Kitchen offers contemporary cuisine, outstanding service and local vibes. The menu will represent the rich culture of the local community, and items will be sourced from local farms, butchers and bakeries.
The hotel’s 302 guest rooms feature a brand-new, modern design. New paint and carpet brighten up the space. The layout has been reconfigured to provide comfortable spaces with completely remodeled bathrooms and built-in storage featuring refrigerator, coffee maker, safe and ironing board. Amenities include spa-like, waterfall showers, plush mattresses, executive work stations and enhanced Wi-Fi.
The DFW Airport Marriott South also added four first level contemporary suites that have the flexibility to be configured either as Junior Suite guest rooms or as a meeting room for small groups of up to 20.
The hotel contains 12,905 square feet of total event space and its largest room can hold up to 750.
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.
The Jeremy West Hollywood, located on the corner of La Cienega Blvd. and Sunset Blvd., announced its official opening on the West Hollywood strip. The Jeremy said it will aim to provide guests with access to the city's best cultural moments, dining opportunities and exclusive events with notable local partners.
The 286-room hotel features 50 suites, including two Penthouse Suites, a pool, fitness center complete with Peloton bikes, two large conference rooms, totaling approximately 10,000 square feet, as well as a cafe and lobby bar. The hotel presents a very distinctive metal cladding on its exterior with its prominent hilltop location allowing for stunning views, ranging from Santa Monica to Downtown L.A. A seven-story Dream Catcher installation connects the two towers of the hotel, which is lit by LED lighting design by Hollywood lighting designer Walter Barry known for his work on television dramas and documentaries.
With an interior design that features a simply modern style with sophisticated touches, The Jeremy West Hollywood Hotel creates an eclectic palette. Hand-finished walls, custom designed lighting, and rich walnut paneling warm the hotel's simple modern style. Guests are greeted with accommodations that are streamlined to focus on the unparalleled view, rejuvenating shower and spacious layout.
"We are excited to unveil The Jeremy to the vibrant West Hollywood market," said Tim Flodin, general manager of The Jeremy West Hollywood. "The opportunity to work on a property in such an important destination with all of its amenities is a thrill to be a part of and we look forward to welcoming guests.”
The Jeremy offers guests a personalized Food and Beverage experience, text-based guest services and lunchbox room service. It’s all-day casual eatery, Etcho Cafe, is a casual gathering place serving Cali-fresh cuisine sourced from local producers. It features items ranging from salads and small plates to charcuterie and entrees like grilled swordfish, ribeye, and bucatini. The hotel’s bar, JOÃO, is inspired by the iconic Sunset Boulevard location and features elements of old Hollywood. JOÃO allows patrons to step back into the silver screen era.
The Jeremy West Hollywood Hotel will feature localized partnerships and pop-ups that speak to the surrounding area. The inaugural pop-up at the hotel is the coveted celebrity Gibson Guitar lobby installation created in collaboration with local charity VH1 Save the Music. The temporary installation will feature custom designed Gibson Guitars created in collaboration with visual artists and musicians.
Future pop-ups and partnerships include a Jeremy-inspired Sunglass Menu, Pink Dot for forgotten essentials, curated activations with designers, and a local L.A. florist, Floral Rush, providing decor.
To celebrate the hotel's debut, The Jeremy is offering guests 30 percent off room rates plus a complimentary upgrade as part of its "Say Hi To Jeremy" package now until Dec. 2017.
Greenview, a sustainability consulting and research firm, released its fourth annual Green Venue Report showcasing “The State of Convention and Exhibition Center Sustainability.” The 2017 report includes data for 66 venues from 14 countries, which it said is a 50% increase from last year (up from 44 venues in 2016).
Here’s an overview of some key findings from the report, as noted by Greenview:
- Venues are saving millions with sustainability upgrades. Venues that invest in these technologies received positive ROIs, ranging from a few hundred dollars converting street lights to LED bulbs, to millions of dollars by implementing waste and water programs.
- Waste generated by events is being directly charged to event organizers. In an effort to curb waste generation, 52% of venues charge event organizers based on waste tonnage. Additionally, about a quarter of venues provide economic incentives for organizers to reduce landfill waste.
- Health and wellbeing of staff is of growing importance. Sixty-two percent of venues reported to having a health and wellbeing policy in place that applies to all staff. Policies and programs include health and fitness facilities with free personal trainers to weekly on-site doctor visits.
- Venues continue to reduce food waste. Planning the precise volume of food needed for attendees helps to control costs and minimize waste. Seventy-seven percent of venues practice active food waste management using either manual or automated tracking, slightly down from last year.
The stats above are just a sampling of the information provided within the 2017 Green Venue Report, which is a must-download for planners and suppliers interested in learning more about sustainability.
The 2017 Green Venue Report (and past reports) are available at https://greenview.sg/green-venue/.
Albuquerque-based Peak Hospitality announced the completion of a successful rebrand and remodel of what is now the Wyndham Albuquerque Hotel and Conference Center. The property was formerly known as the Hotel Cascada. By upgrading and redesigning key features, Wyndham’s $5 million renovation is said to have transformed the hotel and water park into "a must-visit destination" for travelers and locals alike.
The new hotel fitness center is the largest of its kind in Albuquerque and is housed in the space formerly belonging to the historic fine dining restaurant, Delfino’s. In addition to a complete exterior paint job, the entrance to the water park was renovated and a new sauna was added. An updated lobby now includes hydro massage chairs. Wyndham also completed upgrades to the hotel’s guest rooms and the Altitude Sports Grill.
The Manzanita Grill (formerly Amped Cafe) features American and regional cuisine, serving hotel guests and the public for three meals daily. The gift shop are was also updated and will soon offer local products.
The Wyndham and Peak teams will officially unveil the updated property during a private VIP event in mid-September. The Wyndham Albuquerque features 30,000 square feet of event space for 3,800+ attendees.