Saturday, August 27, 2011

How Do Large Hotels Prepare for a Hurricane?

USA Today:  How do large, New York City hotels plan for an unusual weather event such as Hurricane Irene?

To understand what's likely going on inside the Big Apple's biggest hotels, I spoke with veteran hotelier Peter Strebel. He's the general manager at the 400-room Omni Berkshire in Midtown Manhattan. We spoke this morning, just as he'd stepped out of a hurricane planning meeting.

Are guests canceling rooms? Right now, we're taking as many cancellations as we are reservations.

Last night, 34 guests cancelled but this morning a lot of our corporate accounts such as News Corp., BlackRock booked because they need people to run their operations. Most of them are taking precautions and having people come into the city so they can run operations (in case they can't get to work due to storm-related damage).

Can people still get rooms at your hotel this weekend? We expect to be 85% full Friday night and sold out on Saturday night. We may have availability on Sunday night

Are you changing your rates? We're keeping rates that we had if there was no storm. I've heard that some hotels are price gouging because people from Long Island are coming, and you've got people from Lower Manhattan wanting to book Upper Manhattan. We're not out to gouge anyone.

What do you do if employees can't make it to work? We want to run at good service levels, so we have eight managers who will be staying over the entire weekend. I also live at the hotel. We're also getting volunteers from the restaurant, housekeeping and front desk to stay. We could have as many as 20 rooms allocated to associates this weekend.

Does a hotel buy extra supplies like most everyone else does? We bought extra cases of bottled water, and we doubled our food quantities for the weekend - so that's doubled the supply we normally have of eggs, bread and cheese. We bought batteries, candles, glow sticks, umbrellas and everything else you can think of.

Do you expect to have power when/if the hurricane hits? We have full generators at this hotel that have already been tested. They don't cover all areas but they keep the building functioning.

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