Hoteliers Handle Hurricane Headaches
NEW ORLEANS AND FORT WORTH, TEXAS— SEPTEMBER 22, 2005 — It’s nice to have a guardian angel watching over your business when you can’t be there.
That’s what hotels in New Orleans discovered when they lost power and were forced to evacuate after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city, and what hotels in Houston are experiencing as they evacuate with Hurricane Rita on its way to Texas and the Gulf Coast.
“Last evening, Ray Brum, Director of Transient Sales at The Houstonian Hotel Club & Spa, called Digital Alchemy asking us for assistance,” said Don Hay, CEO of Digital Alchemy which provides email-based customer-relationship management and E-Marketing services to the hotel. “They needed us to contact their guests arriving this weekend to notify them that The Houstonian has been evacuated. Within 35 minutes, we launched an email blast to each and every guest with reservations, informing them of the evacuation and letting them know that they would be contacted as soon as the storm was over and the hotel was fully operational once again.
“Not only was Mr. Brum extremely pleased with our performance, but we at Digital Alchemy were very happy with the terrific job done by all our staff in turning around such a project during a crisis,” he said. “The Katrina disaster has kept us on our toes. We assisted our customer hotels and their guests in New Orleans, and were better prepared to assist in the notification process with Rita.”
Digital Alchemy previously launched a goodwill email blast program when managers of the two independent hotels in New Orleans were unable to communicate with guests who had reservations and special events booked for the weeks following Katrina. Digital Alchemy stepped in to fill the information void.
The E-marketing company sent two emails tailored to customers booked through the end of September at both hotels, telling them that the hotels had sustained little damage, their reservations had been cancelled and their credit cards would not be charged. It also thanked them for their business and extended a welcome for them to return when the hotels reopen.
Digital Alchemy routinely emails immediate confirmations to guests reserving rooms at both hotels, so the company was able to access that data and inform guests about the latest developments.
“Many guests emailed back saying they appreciated the information,” said Hay. “Keeping guests informed is the right thing to do, so we are now helping our Texas hotels tell their guests what is happening. For example, Houston is being evacuated while Dallas is likely only to get a good summer shower.”
And it wasn’t only guests who appreciated Digital Alchemy’s intervention on behalf of the hotels.
“Even if we had not been ordered to evacuate the city, we had no power to communicate with guests,” said Ed Morin, managing director of Le Pavillon. “Because Digital Alchemy is in a remote location and has all of our guest records, they were able to communicate with our guests on our behalf. It was a very valuable service.”
Andrea Thornton, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Monteleone, agreed with Morin. Thornton and the rest of the hotel’s management team were evacuating the city and could not reach guests or Digital Alchemy. So Digital Alchemy acted on their behalf by sending the email to guests.
“If we are doing our job right, our hotel partners see us as the department down the hall, not a vendor across the country,” Hay said. “We are an integral part of their business and can do things for them that they can’t do for themselves because they don’t have access to their data like we do.”
When Thornton regained her ability to communicate she called Digital Alchemy and asked them to send an email to all guests with reservations through Oct. 15, telling them their reservations had been cancelled and their credit cards would not be charged. She was pleased to learn that a blast had already been sent out to all September arrivals on their behalf.
The email communication was especially appreciated by the 95 groups that had booked business at the hotel for September and October, Thornton said.
Rebuilding a City While Building Relationships
Hotel Monteleone, located in the French Quarter, was built on high ground and did not flood after the levee retaining Lake Ponchartrain broke.
“We had a few broken windows, but damage to the hotel was very minor compared to what people saw on the national news,” Thornton said. “Once we get purified water, electricity and sewer service we can reopen.”
Le Pavillon, located in the city’s central business district, took on 3.5 feet of water in its basement, but flooding did not affect the guest areas, according to Morin. Electricity and sewer service has been restored to the hotel, but not purified water.
“We hope to reopen soon,” Morin said. “We are trying to locate staff members who have been evacuated out of town. Most staff members’ homes were flooded. We plan to reopen with a key core of staff.”
In addition to email confirmations, Digital Alchemy also sends thank you letters to guests for all its client hotels, along with electronic comment cards which provide immediate feedback that the hotels can act on promptly and email marketing to invite back loyal guests.
“Many of the guests wrote back that they are looking forward to returning to New Orleans when it is ready for them,” Hay said. Email marketing will certainly play an important role in that process.
About Digital Alchemy
|Also See:||Digital Alchemy’s CRM Programs Leveling E- Marketing Playing Field for Hotels / June 2005|
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|No. 1 Westin in North America Taps Email CRM Potential to Create ‘Emotional Connection’ with Repeat Guests / June 2003|