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:
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.


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.

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