As Hurricane Florence begins to hit North and South Carolina,
hotels there have been preparing for landfall.
In Myrtle Beach and the surrounding Grand Strand area,
hoteliers ensured that guests were safely relocated, according to
Stephen Greene, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality
"When the mandatory evacuations started on Wednesday,
we had quite high occupancy. So we've gone through the process of explaining to
guests that they had leave, and we're fielding a lot of questions about
potential plans in terms of people coming in for vacation after the storm,"
said Greene, adding that the vast majority of Myrtle Beach properties have been
shut down and evacuated. "In terms of cancellations moving forward, that
depends on the timing and impact of the storm. If it's minimal, we plan to be
back up and running by the first of the week."
Evacuations have similarly been underway in parts of North
Carolina, where travelers are being redirected to areas further from the storm's
direct path. Though many hotels in safer parts of the state are filling up, evacuees
have been largely able to find accommodations, said Lynn Minges, president and
CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.
"Many hotels have waived cancellation fees for the most
part, and we have encouraged hoteliers, if they can possibly do so, to waive
their pet policies. Many have done that," noted Minges.
She added that the organization was now primarily focused on
planning for post-storm recovery, ensuring select hotels will be up and running
to accommodate first responders and utility crews.
Hotel rooms remain available throughout the upstate region
of South Carolina, with Doug Warner, director of media relations for the
Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, citing continued last-minute
availability in markets like Columbia.
"There were big university football games that have
been canceled this weekend due to the weather, and that has left hotel room
availability open in areas surrounding the University of South Carolina and
others," he noted. "I haven't heard any issues of evacuees not being
able to find lodging."
Warner added that most Charleston-area hotels are planning
to reopen by Monday. "As the storm information continues to update, we're
actually not expecting quite as severe an impact as before," he said.
Meanwhile, many hotel companies have released statements and
policy updates regarding properties affected by Hurricane Florence.
Marriott International confirmed that hotels in the impacted
area are waiving cancellation fees, though details vary by property, while
Hilton announced that modification and cancellation penalties for any guests
whose travel plans could be affected by Hurricane Florence may be waived for
stays with arrivals through Monday, Sept. 17.