Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

Houston ‘Open for Business,’
Florida Spared Irma’s Worst

Despite huge hurtles still ahead, Houston is “open for business,” said Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, just weeks after Hurricane Harvey dumped a record 52 inches of rain in some areas of the nation’s fourth largest city. “Anyone who was planning on a conference or a convention or a sporting event or a concert coming to this city, you can still come,” he told CBS. “We can do multiple things at the same time.”

That message was echoed by Visit Houston, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. According to the bureau, the George R. Brown Convention Center and Avenida Houston, the campus surrounding the center, sustained minimal damage and are fully functional. The convention center accommodated more than 10,000 evacuees during the apex of the flooding, but now fewer than 1,500 people are housed at the center.
Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston said about 95 percent of hotels in and around the Greater Houston area are open for business. Among those hotels not re-opened: The Omni Houston Hotel is currently closed until further notice, and the Omni Houston Hotel at Westside is expected to reopen at the end of this month.

According to a statement from Visit Houston, “At this time, five groups planning to use the GRB through Sept. 14 have been rescheduled for later dates in 2017, and all others are currently on schedule as planned.” One meeting on schedule for next month is the Magnet Conference, the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Conference, which will bring 10,000 nursing professionals to the George R. Brown Convention Center. The conference is the largest nursing meeting in the U.S.

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the meetings and hospitality industry,” said John Solis, senior vice president of sales for Visit Houston. “We have had no groups cancel their meetings for 2017, and we are confident we will meet, and in true Houston fashion, exceed their expectations.” 

PCMA and the PCMA Education Foundation have announced the PCMA Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The fund will provide assistance to members in the meetings and events industry who have been impacted by the storm.

“We applaud our colleagues in the hospitality communities across the Lone Star State for their hard work to help their friends, families and neighbors,” said Deborah Sexton, PCMA’s president and CEO. “I invite everyone in the business-events community to help our colleagues who are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.”

PCMA and the PCMA Education Foundation are looking at ways to offer continued support to the region. “After the initial emergency response phase, the area will need more help,” Sexton said. “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to help southeastern Texas emerge from this disaster stronger than ever.”

For more information on the fund and how to contribute, click here.

Too Early to Gauge Irma’s Impact
Following Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Florida over the weekend, more than 4 million homes in the state are without power, but the state has averted the worst potential impact as the 400-mile-wide storm, which veered west over the weekend and did not devastate Tampa as was feared after weather patterns showed the core of the storm would fall over the city. In one of the largest U.S. evacuations, nearly 7 million people in the Southeast were warned to seek shelter elsewhere, including 6.4 million in Florida alone.

Hurricane Irma is moving north of Tampa into Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, but it is losing strength and has been downgraded to a tropical story. It was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall in Florida Keys.

In the Caribbean, at least 21 people were killed when Irma slammed into the islands. Heavy damage was reported on Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Barts and other popular beach destinations. The Puerto Rico Convention Center and most of the island’s hotels are operational, according to Meet Puerto Rico. The airport has resumed flight operations.

Irma at one time was the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic, a Category 5 with a peak wind speed of 185 miles per hour. This is the first year on record that the U.S. has been hit by two storms that were Category 4 upon landfall. — Regina McGee

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