Hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a popular tourist destination, were given a scare this week when the eye of Hurricane Earl passed within 65 miles of heavily populated St. Thomas island. While the clear need for crisis management was acknowledged by all, the way individual hotels handled the situation varied widely. TMC News has the story:
“There are certain core strategies that all the hotels keep,” said V.I. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty. “But I think each of the branded properties have a certain corporate culture with how they deal with visitors. You’ll find variances from one hotel to the next, and you’ll see that difference with any type of crisis.” On St. Thomas at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort and Spa, which caught the worst of the hurricane-force wind from the north, hotel visitors were given bag lunches, asked to stay in their rooms at 2 p.m. and were told an automated phone message service would inform them about dinner plans. No alcoholic beverages were served.
Less than five miles away at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef and Morningstar Beach Resort, which is on the St. Thomas south side and faced milder winds, there wasn’t an empty seat inside the lobby, as hotel guests socialized while playing board games, dominoes and cards. The bar was busy, the gift shop was thriving, and there was no talk of a curfew.
Luckily for everyone involved, the true capabilities of the hotels were not put to the test as the hurricane turned away from the islands and storms in the region began to dissipate. Although the storm’s brief business disruption may cause short-term financial losses as customers shy away from the region, there shouldn’t be any significant effects felt by local businesses.
For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
[Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]