Many hotels in Texas and Florida operated as shelters for their communities during Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Here’s how hotel employees worked to keep people safe during the storms.

By Danielle Hess
[email protected]
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in late August and early September not only took a physical toll on hotel properties in the region, they taxed the staffs of hotels which served as shelters during the storms. For hotels with success stories, the key was communication and cooperation by the staff.

Concord Hospitality has properties in Texas and Florida that operated as shelters during the hurricanes, according to Debra Punke, SVP of human capital.

One hotel, Concord’s Courtyard by Marriott Houston Intercontinental Airport in Houston, wasn’t officially open yet when Hurricane Harvey hit, Punke said, but the property received permission to open before its grand opening to house first responders, Homeland Security workers and hotel employees who had lost their homes to the storm.

Since the hotel hadn’t officially opened, it had no supplies, Punke said. Two employees at the hotel—who also were staying there during the storm—left the property to gather food, water and other supplies to cook for guests.

“The humanity that happens in these times is what’s great to see,” she said.

Some of Concord’s Houston hotels that were fully booked opened up meeting rooms to set up cots for people who needed a place to stay, Punke said.

Because of lessons learned from Harvey, Concord hotels in Florida were a little more prepared for Hurricane Irma, Punke said. The Hyatt Centric Miami South Beach was given permission to house FEMA and emergency responders, she said, and Concord’s Courtyard Orlando South property waived pet policies to house evacuees from Tampa and Miami during Irma.