In the wake of the recent disasters and tragedies in the US, communities all over the world have suffered from loss. In 2017, we’ve encountered devastating hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and the deadliest mass shooting in the US. In their wake, hospitality professionals have a great but unique responsibility, different from their big-industry counterparts, because they have the network, the means, the space, and the compassion needed to make a difference in Houston, Florida, The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, California, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and so many more. They have the power to create a community center at a moment’s notice.
With the right training and resources, many hotels, venues, suppliers, and partners have found creative and effective ways to support communities at large. There are also countless allies joining hands with hotels, such as FEMA, to cover the cost of temporary shelter for evacuees, and its Disaster Assistance Improvement Program, which “provides disaster survivors with information, support, services, and a means to access and apply for disaster assistance.” Here are a few steps hotels should take immediately in response and preparation for when disasters hit.
Create a Plan
Leaders should develop an emergency disaster plan that includes both at-home preparation, as well as support for others in need. Ensuring guest and staff safety is of the utmost importance, so keeping the staff informed is crucial to making guests feel safe. In an Interstate article, experts note that establishing roles and responsibilities of hotel staff during disasters creates a more effective and nimble team in the face of disasters. Refine the plan after any event that requires emergency procedures so they adapt to your team, property, and guest requirements.
In response to Hurricane Harvey, Airbnb developed a system to connect guests and homes, letting users easily select whether they were looking for or offering free accommodations. Mic.com noted, “even Airbnb has plans in place to help locals when disaster strikes. The company contacts hosts in affected areas to ask if they have room for displaced people, and waives services fees during emergencies.”
There are so many ways to provide support other than welcoming people onto your properties. From free Wi-Fi, use of amenities, or even providing toiletries in bulk helps victims and is easy for hotels and ownership groups to provide. Figure out unique, quick ways to provide support and work with partners to be prepared to deploy your plan when needed.
One of the easiest ways to support those effected by tragedies is to donate. Here is a list of reputable organizations currently accepting donations:
The Caribbean (Hurricanes Irma & Jose)
- Halo Foundation
- SPCA International
- John Community Foundation
- Center for Disaster Philanthropy
- Save the Children
- John Rescue Inc.
- 21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund
- Habitat for Humanity
Florida (Hurricane Irma)
- All Faiths Food Bank
- Feeding South Florida
- Humane Society of Greater Miami
Texas (Hurricane Harvey)
- Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
- Houston Food Bank
- Texas Diaper Bank
- Best Friends Animal Society
- BeyGOOD Houston
- The Montrose Center
- One America Appeal
- Coastal Bend Food Bank
- San Antonio Humane Society
Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria)
- United for Puerto Rico
- GoFundMe: Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund
- Puerto Ricans in Action
- Crowdrise: Support UNICEF’s Relief Efforts in Mexico
- Project Paz
- Cruz Roja Mexicana
Nama and Sonoma Counties (Wildfires)
- Napa Valley Community Foundation
- United Way of the Wine Country
- Marin Humane
- The Anova Phoenix Campaigns
- Sonoma County Resilience Fund
- Tubbs Fires Victims Fund
- Sonoma County Animal Services
- Redwood Empire Food Bank
Las Vegas (Shooting)
- Las Vegas Victims Fund – a project of the Direct Impact Fund
- National Center for Victims of Crime
- United Blood Services
- Three Squares
- Catholic Charities
Spread the Word
In addition to donating money, supplies, space, or time, it’s crucial that the hospitality industry continue to spread awareness about how to step up and create a supportive community to those being affected. Start with your employees. Communicating to your wider organization is a great way to band together and provide support to a common cause. Encourage teams to engage on social media and share the efforts your properties are making. For example, when a New York Life event was cancelled due to Hurricane Harvey, they donated 100 guest rooms at the Hilton Downtown Austin, “plus the food, beverage, and meeting space at the Austin Convention Center that had been booked for its meeting, to Red Cross volunteers and evacuees from the greater Houston area where the hurricane had hit the hardest.” After the donation, the Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin published a press release thanking them.
Whether you’re promoting resources for those in need or thanking others for their generosity, social media is a great outlet and powerful platform in times of need. We’d love to hear how your properties are making a difference, so feel free to share your ideas and successes with Cvent.