By Leah Shaw
The people of Houston are humbled and grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of kindness, prayers and relief efforts we have received from across the country/globe. Countless examples of the Heart of Houston emerged over the past week. The strength, resilience and genuine kindness displayed by friends, family, coworkers, neighbors and complete strangers truly encapsulate the spirit of this special city.
Visit Houston is especially proud of our six employees who expertly converted the George R. Brown Convention Center into a fully functioning emergency shelter, ready to take in community members within a mere 90 minutes of receiving the call to action. It is this passion, hard work and determination that gives us hope for the future of this great city.
“We are proud of the way Houstonians have rallied around one another to help their neighbors and their communities as we begin the long process of recovering and rebuilding. Houstonians are resilient and we’ll emerge from this stronger than ever,” says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We are also encouraged by the business community’s commitment to helping Houston through this. As the flood waters recede and the airports begin to return to normal, we encourage our convention visitors to not cancel their plans, and we thank those conventions who have ensured us they are still coming. Your support is critical in helping Houston recover and rebuild.”
Hour by hour the landscape changes here, but progress is being made.
Visit Houston continues to work closely with all major hotels, restaurants and retailers in the area to obtain the status of their operations. Here is an update on key facilities as of last Friday:
•Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) and surrounding campus, Avenida Houston, is currently fully functional and has sustained minimal damage. The GRB continues to serve as an emergency shelter. As of Friday, September 1, the GRB shelter population had dropped to just under 2,000, from its peak of over 10,000 and we expect this number to decline as we work swiftly with local and national agencies to find transitional housing for those sheltered in our facilities.
•We have communicated with all groups planning to use the GRB through this fall. At this time, five groups planning to use the GRB through Sept 14th have been rescheduled for later dates in 2017, and all others are currently on schedule as planned. Our current goal is to reopen with the Texas Society of Association Executives September 17-19. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the meetings and hospitality industry,” says John Solis, Senior VP of Sales. “As of this morning 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.”
•According to the most recent reports, surrounding hotels in downtown Houston sustained minimal damage and are fully operational. According to the Hotel Lodging Association of Greater Houston, roughly 95% of hotels in and around the Greater Houston area are open for business.
•Both George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby Airports resumed limited domestic passenger airline operations on Thursday, Aug. 31, with the expectation to be fully operational next week.
“I am so proud of the Greater Houston community, the selfless desire to help each other is truly inspirational. Clearly hospitality is in our DNA,” says Mike Waterman, president of Visit Houston.
We understand the uncertainty this creates for so many who had plans to visit Houston. We have moved quickly from rescue to recovery and rebuilding. Many have asked, how can we help. We are in discussion with the hospitality community to set up a fund to help hospitality employees impacted by hurricane Harvey. We will provide that information as soon as we have it.
Leah Shaw is the public relations director of Visit Houston.