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 23 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 24 The AWARDS Issue! Pro-Active Efforts Help Destinations Bounce Back Even though much of southeast Texas got slammed by Hurricane Harvey, Galveston Island escaped the worst of the storm's wrath. Within a short time, the community's tourism offi- cials became proactive in letting peo- ple know that, despite some terrible damages in nearby areas, the resort island had received little impact from the storm. On Aug. 31, Landry's Inc. announced that many of its area hospitality properties, including the San Luis Resort, Spa & Confer- ence Center and the Hilton Galveston Island Resort, were open for business and accepting reservations, sending photos to show that the facilities were in good shape. By Sept. 6, less than two weeks after Harvey struck, Galveston Island tourism officials had issued an announcement that all Galveston beaches and major attractions were open. A video was released to provide visual evidence that things had returned to normal. "We are fortunate to have fared well through the storm and made a quick bounce back," said Kelly de Schaun, executive director of the Galveston Island CVB and Galveston Park Board. "I think it really speaks to the resiliency of our community and our commitment to Southern hospitality. We will roll out the welcome mat for whoev- er is ready. We know so many people value the island as a place to get away, relax and make priceless memories." Steve DeFelice, regional director of sales at The San Luis Resort, said that, while Hurricane Harvey impacted Galveston Island with heavy, wind-driven rain, which caused Bayside flooding, the resort was fortunate to not experience significant damage from the storm. He pointed out, however, that the property has written policies and procedures in place for severe weather situations. "We ensure that our department heads and executive committee teams are well versed in the plans and look to these leaders to implement and train resort staff," he said. As Harvey approached, the plan was put into action. "In any type of natural disaster, communication is key to ensuring the safety and security of your guests, employees, and property," DeFelice pointed out. "The San Luis Resort's communication chain was clear. Department heads and executive committee members met twice a day to share critical updates. Key team members moved into each of the properties to monitor condi- tions and ensure operations were unaffected. Team members were in constant communi- cation through a group text. These different channels of communication allowed us to work quickly and efficiently to serve our customers. Sales, catering and conference planning teams shared updates with meeting groups and event planners who had upcom- ing reservations on property." Because the resort sits on the highest point on Galveston Island, the property was able to house several emergency responders and also fed 200 responders and other officials, he added. In cases, such as Harvey, where a storm threatens but inflicts little damage, the re- sort's public relations and marketing teams work in tandem to communicate with media, industry partners and stakeholders that the property is up and running, DeFelice said. "We also utilize our social media channels to supplement and share status updates quickly and efficiently." He advised that strategic internal commu- nication is key to an effective storm re- sponse. "In addition to having plans in place, establishing a clear communication chain is crucial in times of crisis," he said. "Open communication with your guests is a must. Proactively communicate with guests before, during and after natural disasters." n de Schaun DeFelice Just when it seemed the 2017 tropical storm season might be over, Hurricane Nate shot like a bullet through the Gulf of Mexico in early October. Although the unusually fast-moving storm had caused widespread destruction in Central America, it dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall at the mouth of the Mis- sissippi River. Coastal Mississippi, which was in its path, saw very minimal damage and the staff at Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast were quick to get the message out that things were OK. Janice Jefferson, director of sales for Visit Mississippi, and the entire staff, were in constant contact with tourism partners along the coast, and were able to report that many hotels, casinos, attrac- tions and restaurants had resumed business as usual. The CVB also provided information about tempo- rary closings and plans for debris removal along the beaches. The CVB issued a state- ment on Oct.13: "We are grateful that Hurricane Na- te's impact wasn't as severe as anticipat- ed and that our coastal communities saw a minimal amount of damage. As a coast- al region that welcomes over six million visitors a year, we maintain a high level of advance preparedness for storms and a dedication to quickly resume operations afterward. Due to the hard work of our public officials and the dedication of our incredible hospitality employees, our destination has rebounded quickly." n A Quick Rebound Jefferson

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