It can feel like a double whammy. A destination mobilizes forces after being warned that it might be in the sights of a big storm. Then, on the heels of breathing a sigh of relief when the worst passes by, those in the hospitality sector have the burden of overcoming lingering marketing effects of headlines scaring off potential visitors. Even as Hurricane Maria dominated headlines blowing through Puerto Rico on Thursday, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau was working to get out a very different message: “We’re open for business!”
Large groups are already going forward with meetings as planned. On September 17, IMN, a global company that organizes institutional finance and investment conferences, went ahead with its four-day event at Fountainebleau Miami Beach, just as it has for the last nine years. CEO Julius Hill said he considered cancelling or postponing as he watched news reports. But after conversations with Fontainebleau management, who assured him all 2,000 hourly staffers would be on site to ensure a smooth event—and urging from Mayor Philip Levine—he decided the meeting was a go. He added a philanthropic item to the agenda. “In addition to fundraising for local relief efforts, we’re pleased to be making a difference on the ground, supporting the workers who are the lifeblood of Miami Beach’s tourism and hospitality industry,” Hill said in a release.
Sunnyvale, California-based Ruckus Wireless held its annual event, Big Dogs, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel September 18-20. More than 400 people made the trip. “There is no better time to come to Miami Beach than now—the city is back in business,” said Ruckus Chief Commercial Officer Ian Whiting in a release. “As expected, the hotel staff welcomed us with open arms and provided phenomenal service, making our event a huge success.”
In the Caribbean, a dedicated travel update web site has been created to give real-time updates and connect people with charities active in the area. As of today, 26 destinations are listed as open for business, with another 12 affected. St. Kitts notes it was fortunate to escape major damage from the passage of Hurricane Maria, and that after initial assessments the island is resuming normal operations. “All hotels in St. Kitts are fully operational,” the release announced. St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport (SKB) reopened earlier this week and is receiving flights, and two cruise ships are expected in the coming days.
Another Caribbean hotel eager to get word out about its “all-clear” status is Eden Roc at Cap Cana in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. “The property did not suffer any damage and is resuming its regular operations. Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ) is also back up and running,” it said in a release.