Marriott International at press time had chartered motorcoaches and
hired a cadre of security guards help secure the evacuation of 350
guests and employees still remaining in its Ritz-Carlton and JW
Marriott hotels in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
and JW Marriott are the last two of 15 Marriott-branded hotels in
New Orleans that remained occupied. Most of the guests and
employees were in the Ritz-Carlton, a 575-room property on Canal
during a telephone press conference Sept. 1, said moving them over
to the JW Marriott, a few blocks away, was proving to be cumbersome
due to the fact that the Ritz-Carlson was surrounded by about four
feet of water.
It has been very
difficult to get the people out, said Jeff Wolf, Marriotts regional
vice president of marketing operations. We have been able to move
[more than] 600 people through [the water] and get them evacuated
to the JW Marriott, where motorcoaches were waiting to transport
them to Baton Rouge, La.
At one point during
the storm, the hotels provided shelter to as many as 2,500
The day after the
storm, many were evacuated. Later, locals displaced from their
homes sort out shelter in the hotels.
Like many Marriott
properties, the hotels have emergency electrical generators that
remained operating even as New Orleans lost power during and after
At no point did we
actually shutdown our generators, Wolf said. Generally, the hotels
had light, but no air conditioning, as the generators began to run
out of fuel.
Meanwhile, as crime
and looting has increasingly become more of a problem as the
overall situation grows more desperate in New Orleans, Marriott has
hired 24 armed security guards and additional motorcoaches to
assure safe passage as it evacuated its remaining guests and
Our intension now
is to remove all of our people and our guests as quickly as
possible, Wolf said.
The evacuees will
be sent to Baton Rouge, where Marriott has set up a command post to
coordinate accommodations and other services.
Marriotts executive vice president, North American lodging
operations, said the post is manned by some 50 people ready to
provide aid to evacuees.
We also have
accommodations available in Houston where we have a fair number of
properties, McCarthy said, adding that along with the evacuation
efforts, Marriott was also providing assistance to
We are dealing with
employment issues and dealing with getting our associates paid, he
said. Marriott plans to continue to pay its affected employees
through Sept. 9. Payment beyond that is under review, McCarthy
Although it was
likely that Marriotts hotels in New Orleans would be completely
empty by the weekend if not sooner, it also appeared clear that
properties would not remain empty for long.
We have demand that
is rising rapidly from insurance companies and the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, McCarthy said. There are several
thousand rooms being requested in the area. At the same time, you
have a large number of people who are homeless and need
Marriott is ready to return to New Orleans as soon as it gets the
go ahead from the city.
We have 50
engineers in Baton Rouge. As soon as the city is safe, they will go
in and assess the conditions of the assets from an infrastructure
standpoint, said Lenny Jachimowicz, Marriotts vice president,
lodging engineering. Behind that, we have 200 engineers that are
already mobilized to go in and start the rebuilding process. In
addition to that, we have [power] generators en route to all of the
hotels in New Orleans. But all of that is contingent on access to
the city and when we have water and sewer returned to its normal
Despite the severe
devastation caused in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and the
rapidly deteriorating conditions left in its wake, J.W. Marriott,
Jr., Marriotts chairman and CEO, was optimistic that the city
nicknamed The Big Easy would be restored before long.
This is a most
distressful and concerning time for us, he said. Obviously, it is
the biggest natural disaster ever to hit our country. [But] the
long-term outlook for New Orleans is very positive. When this
country gets mobilized and decides it is going to do something, it
gets done. Whether it is Sept. 11 in New York, Pearl Harbor or back
with the San Francisco earthquake or the Chicago fire, we get it
rebuilt and we do it in a hurry. We are very confident that the
city will be rebuilt in a timely fashion and comeback better than
reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].
details on this article, see "Many hotels filling up with Hurricane Katrina