DEC 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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Page 21 of 75

⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 22 The AWARDS Issue! Providing A Place For Evacuees When Hurricane Irma was spinning toward south Florida in early Septem- ber, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in northwest Florida was not in the path of the storm. However, Direc- tor of Sales and Marketing Lisa Jones was involved in daily meetings with the facility staff to stay updated on weather developments and make sure plans were in place should Irma take a sudden turn. Although the storm stayed away from the resort, it did have an impact. A number of evacuees from other parts of the state began arriving and suddenly, there were a lot of dogs in the hotel. While the hotel normally allows only service animals, Jones explained that, like many hotels, the Hilton Sandestin allows guests to bring pets during times of weather emergencies. Another factor that comes into play at such times is a change in the property's cancel- lation policies. Jones explained that both leisure travelers and meeting attendees are exempted from regular cancellation rules if they are affected by an approaching storm. Even though Hurricane Irma was unlikely to impact the resort, some meeting attendees might be coming from affected areas and thus have to cancel at the last minute, she said. This, in turn, might require a meeting to be rescheduled. Such was the case with a regional conference for the National Asso- ciation of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP). Bethany Jones, meeting planning consultant for NASBP, who had to cancel the event that had been set for early September, said travel difficulties were the biggest problems for association members. "Our main deci- sion to cancel was because a majority of our participants were traveling through major airports in the southeast, which were likely to be affected by Irma," she said. "Also, the magnitude and unpredictable path of that particular storm caused concern; nobody had seen a hurricane that big before. We were getting calls and emails from our members and it became obvious that we were going to lose a lot of attendees." She praised the staff at the Hilton Sandestin for their flexibility in allowing the cancella- tion and then helping reschedule the event in late October. "I couldn't have asked for any- thing better," Jones said. "A week before the meeting was originally scheduled we began getting daily updates on the situation from the property staff. We were not charged a cancel- lation fee and when the rescheduled meeting drew fewer attendees than had signed up for the originally scheduled meeting, the hotel waived all attrition fees for the lower number of guest rooms and lower F&B counts. Their attitude was 'we can work this out!'" Based on her experiences, however, Jones offered the following advice: "Have a cancellation clause in your contract for weather-related problems and be specific. It should include verbiage specifically related to hurricanes, the timing of National Weather Service announcements about warnings and watches and the radius of the areas affected." n Jones Readers' Choice Award Winners • B Resort in Walt Disney World • Caribe Royale Orlando All-Suite Hotel & Convention Center, See Ad On Page 19 • DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa • Eden Roc Miami Beach, See Ad On Page 75 • Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista South, See Ad On Page 20 • Emerald Coast CVB • Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, See Ad On Page 23 • Greater Miami CVB • The Henderson Beach & Spa Resort, See Ad On Page 76 • Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, See Ad On Page 25 • Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa • Miami Beach Convention Center • Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau • Ocean Center Convention Entertainment Complex • Ocean Reef Club • Opal Sands Resort • Orange County Convention Center • Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches • The Pearl Hotel • Pelican Beach Resort & Conference Center • Ponte Vedra Inn & Club • Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, See Ad On Page 27 • Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa • Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach • TradeWinds Island Grand • Villas of Grand Cypress • Visit Sarasota County • Visit South Walton • Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort • Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach • Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek Honorable Mention Award Winners • Don CeSar Hotel • Rosen Shingle Creek New & Renovated Award Winners • DoubleTree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld, See Ad On Page 21 • The Grove Resort & Spa • Hilton Clearwater Beach • Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort • Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa • Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina • Pensacola Grand Hotel • Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina • Planet Hollywood Observatory Florida

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