Monday, September 18, 2017

Update from Houston: Go Ahead and Book It! The Event & Meeting Businesses are OPEN.

The George R. Brown Convention Center served as a shelter.
Fresh in our minds: images of devastation.
We decided to check the reality of the situation and we can confirm:
HOUSTON IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.
Houstonians need your business to continue their overall recovery!

As you know we have strong emotional ties to Houston.
Our Creative Writer Elizabeth Brazil Dickson calls Houston home.
Account Executive Brynne Peña visits her "second home" frequently and spent a week in Houston during Hurricane Harvey.

We decided to get an update on the state of Greater Houston.
Visit Houston's President Mike Waterman was happy to grant us an interview.
 EW: Mr. Waterman, nearly four weeks after Harvey, is Houston ready for business?

Mike Waterman: "Absolutely, it actually never closed. I am happy to share a few facts. According to the Harris County Flood Authority approximately 25% of Houston was negatively impacted by the flood. That could have been flooding that came up to your door step but did not enter the house to water overflowing the first and in some cases even second floor. From a salesperson point of view that means that 75% of Houston was not directly physically impacted by the storm. Specifically the key tourism destinations which for us are the Downtown area, Galleria, Museum District and the Texas Medical Center never got flooded, never lost power, never lost water, and are currently all operating at 100% capacity."

EW: How many companies have had to alter their event & meeting plans due to the storm?

Mike Waterman: "We moved about five groups. We had a group that was due to arrive the Tuesday after Labor Day but because we had converted the George R. Brown Convention Center into an emergency center we could not physically accommodate that group. They are great friends of the Greater Houston CVB and we could reschedule their event, after numerous conversations with everyone involved, to December of this year. The other four groups were smaller groups utilizing the George R. Brown CC and all were due to arrive before the 14th of September. We are currently hosting our first major group, 650 attendees belonging to the Texas Society of Association Executives, utilizing two hotels here in the Convention District. We called them on the Monday after the storm and they responded 'we are coming no matter what. So be ready for us'. It's very "Texas", right?."

EW: Are all vendor services - catering, hotels, transportation, - available? Are there restrictions of any kind?

Mike Waterman: "None whatsoever. 98% of hotels, as far as we can tell, which is close to a thousand hotels are open and fully operating.
While many of the 10,000+ restaurants in the greater Houston area were impacted, most reopened to serve the community just a few days later. We are encouraged to see the majority of restaurants in the central districts, including areas near downtown, the Heights, the Galleria and many more, are back in business doing what they do best.
Both airports and Houston Metro are up and running. We are open for business. Sports fans know that the Astros and Mets played a 3-game series literally the weekend after the storm."

EW: We feel it is really important to let our event industry peers know that Houston is up and running and that Texas event professionals need that business to avoid further negative economic impact.

Mike Waterman: "We know that close to 100,000 homes were impacted by the storm. I don't want to make light of the fact that there are a considerable number of Houstonians who were severely impacted by Harvey. FEMA issued 57,000 hotel vouchers. There are a lot of Houstonians still displaced. But to your point: as the organization responsible for promoting Houston as a tourism and business destination we have to say, we need the business. The fastest way to get people's lives back to normal is by bringing your business to Houston. There are parts of the city that will take months if not years to recover but from a meetings and events industry perspective the best thing you can do is to bring your business to Houston and help support our 140,000 hospitality associates in the market or you can make donations to an employer relief fund that we have just stood up and you can contribute to.




The George R. Brown Convention Center was activated as an emergency center and housed at the peak 10,000 displaced Houstonians.

Mike Waterman: "We stood the CC up as an emergency shelter in 3 1/2 hours. We purchased the food, we prepared it, we cooked it, we cleaned it. We handled all services Friday through Wednesday until the American Red Cross came in."

George R. Brown Convention Center

Thank you for the conversation.

We will see you in Houston!

All Photos provided by the Greater Houston CVB.

HURRICANE HARVEY HOSPITALITY EMPLOYEE RELIEF FUND

The Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Commander’s Family of Restaurants, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation are collecting charitable contributions to help employees in the hospitality industry impacted by Hurricane Harvey. “After Hurricane Katrina, the Houston community was there for New Orleans and we’ll never forget it. Today, we are returning the favor,” says Ti Martin, Commander’s Family of Restaurants.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Summer Fun for the EventWorks Team


The sweaty EWers with PVPLC Stewardship Associate Josh Weinik

We got together for our very own team-building day and managed to combine team fun with a good cause. 

We broke out the shovels and worked in gorgeous surroundings with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.

We liked it to so much that we will do it again!

It had been a while since we had all gotten together just for fun as a team. Our travel and work schedules rarely place us all in town at the same time. 

Finally, August 5th turned out to be the right moment.
Since our homes are spread out over two counties in Southern California - and those of you who know Los Angeles traffic know what that means - we were looking for a location equally inconvenient for all of us to keep things fair in our search of an opportunity for our good deeds.

We found the volunteering opportunity with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, the perfect fit.

About PVPLC:
The Conservancy preserves undeveloped land as open space for historical, educational, ecological, recreational and scenic purposes. Since its founding in 1988, the Conservancy has successfully preserved 1,600 acres of open space on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

The Conservancy's vision is the creation and management of large blocks of natural open space where visitors may enjoy peaceful solitude, where children and adults can learn about the natural environment, and where native plants and animals can thrive.

PVPLC needs volunteers.

So what did we actually do?

On Saturday, August 5th, from 9Am to Noon (well, not quite) the PVPLC guides and volunteers worked in the Portuguese Bend Reserve to eliminate non-native plants to make room for the restoration of native species of plants. 









The award for best wildlife spotting goes to Kristen who saved Brynne from stepping on a rattle snake.

The award for really keeping calm in the face of danger goes to Brynne who quietly replied "oh, where is it?" and then softly backed out of the brush.

We all deserve accolades for digging, pulling and weeding in the heat. We actually really enjoyed working physically in the beautiful outdoors. Guess who does not want her husband to know about her secret gardening skills. 😎

Thank you to biologist Josh Weinik for teaching us a lot about native and non-native plants in our area. We now can make the difference between the beautiful and desirable California bush sunflower and the invading Sahara mustard plant. We learned how to remove parasitical plants from hosts. We are looking forward to the replanting season when the Conservancy restores natural habitat with native plants over the winter months.

The Conservancy operates its own drought resistant native plant nursery. These plants are local to the Peninsula.
It is open to the public for purchases every 4th Saturday from 12PM to 2PM.
Address: White Point Nature Preserve, 1600 Paseo del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731 (must enter via Western Ave.)

Learn more about the Conservancy on their website. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Brynne Peña weathered Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The experience changed her life. Read how Event Pros are helping now.

The reunion in full swing on August 24th, before Harvey hit.

As Brynne boarded her long-booked flight to Houston to visit her best friends, Bethany Palmer Mayott and Kimi Musser, two California transplants and current Houston residents, the forecast warned of a tropical depression in Texas counties near the Mexican border. But as we know now Harvey changed rapidly into a category 3 hurricane, made landfall repeatedly and stalled over Houston, flooding large parts of the city with record breaking rain fall. 

A weekend with Kimi and her family turned into a week in Houston that changed Brynne's outlook on life.

"By Friday night the storm moved in very quickly. The rain was pounding so hard that it was impossible to sleep. I had never heard rain that loud. By Saturday morning we started to take precautions. We checked whether we had enough water and bread to last several days. Neighbors informed Kimi and Michael that this neighborhood had never flooded in 30 years. But you just don't know. It was this feeling of uncertainty and anxiety that prevailed all weekend.

By Saturday we got tornado warnings. This was also a first for me. The official warnings included the times that we had to stay sheltered. We all piled into the walk-in closet, the innermost part of the house.

As the water was rising in streets nearby, we took all the food out of the pantry and moved it upstairs. We also carried the most treasured furniture upstairs to the second floor to save it. We left one mattress downstairs to have something to sit on to watch TV.

The scariest thing was the uncertainty of what would happen overnight, wondering whether we would get flooded."

Brynne updated family and friends of her status through social media.

"Our neighborhood turned into an island. While we were spared the flooding and the power outages, we could not get anywhere. The flood situation changed block by block. We were okay but a few streets over it was a different story. We had to stay completely indoors for 4 days. We kept up with the news on our phones so that the children would not get too frightened. Once the boys were in bed we would turn on the TV to catch the latest news."

Always the hard worker, she spent her days waiting indoors working from her guest bedroom and playing with her godsons. 

Brynne: "What will remain with me is the feeling of total loss of control. We could not go anywhere. Traveling home was completely outside of my control. Finally on Thursday, four days after my originally scheduled flight, 40 flights made it out of Houston International and I was lucky to get on one of them.

What stands out to me the most was the way the people of Houston cared for each other. Just simple actions, like neighbors sharing food without being asked, offering use of generators...one friend offered to evacuate us in his elevated truck if need be! Houston Strong! The strength and kindness of Texans will stay with me forever.
Having seen both the heroism and devastation with my own eyes, I am personally compelled to help fund raise. I am thankful to be safe, and want to give to those who were not as fortunate.

Brynne's friend, graphic design artist and owner of the Houston based and internationally successful wedding and event invitations company 
Anticipate Invitations, Michael Musser is one of these #HoustonStrong locals who does what he can to help.

He designed these three gorgeous new note card sets, available online, to raise funds. 100% of the proceeds will benefit victims of Harvey directly.


Brynne: "Kimi and Michael are working with members of their church and families from my godsons' school directly to select recipients of these funds. 
We are dedicating the initial funds raised to purchasing urgently needed school supplies for a special needs classroom.
Kimi and Michael feel blessed to have been spared. We all feel the need to help friends and families who lost so much. We are grateful for all gestures of support

We are delighted to see that our event industry colleagues are jumping into action!

SEARCH FOUNDATION will support event industry professionals victimized by Hurricane Harvey. Please click the link to learn more.

Event Pros Take Action, in collaboration with SBPUSA.org, will bring their volunteers to Houston. Please contact Susie Perelman to join EPTA's effort to rebuild Houston! 

Thank you!