A Hotelier’s role during natural disasters can be incredibly stressful and exhausting. But the role is also critical for the well-being of the hotels guests. Doing your job calmly and consistently can make a difference in the lives of guests. Guests who are stressed, worried, panicked and needing help and answers during times of crisis.
Working as a hotelier in a country, such as the Philippines which seem to be beset by natural disasters, there are two harsh realities. And, we certainly become well aware of these early on in our career:
ONE: The country will inevitably experience natural calamities such as typhoons, earthquakes, flooding and volcanic eruptions.
TWO: You will, most likely, be expected to go to work despite these calamities.
Gone are the days when you would wait longingly for the Storm Signal Advisory announcing no school, or work, due to a typhoon. That’s especially true if you are working as a front-liner. No, we are hoteliers. And we are deemed to be waterproof!
With a business that never closes, a Hotel needs people covering duty 24/7, to help the guests. No matter what the situation may be. Whether it’s a Storm Signal Number 3, flooded roads or volcanic ash falling on your head. You need to try your very best to make it into work. If you don’t, those who have been working the shift before you will have to extend their hours and cover for you.
And you know the Golden Rule:
“Don’t do unto others what you wouldn’t want others to do unto you!”
But, rather than viewing the hotelier’s role during natural disasters as a reason to think twice about the industry you chose. You can choose to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for you to help out, to provide calm, confidence and assurance. An opportunity for you to shine!
Plus, hotels usually have better resources and back up provisions, in terms of electricity and generators, food, water and communication. This puts you in a terrific position to provide assistance, care and reassurance to the guests.
Below are some of the areas that make up the hotelier’s role during natural disasters
The Safety and Security of Guests and Co-workers
During calamities, your primary concern should be the safety, health and security of your hotel guests. And of your team.
As part of providing a safe refuge for your guests, you will need to check the property. If the calamity is pending, such as a Typhoon or tropical storm, you should ensure that every thing that can be secured, is secured or tied down.
You may need to make sure beach or garden furniture is stored away securely and that balcony furniture is brought inside the hotel rooms.
Immediately after the event checks should be carried out for cracks, leaks, broken glass or fallen trees. Or anything that can potentially cause injury to guests or employees. Checks should also be made that all staff and guests are accounted for.
You may be asked to do an inventory of resources. Checking what the hotel has available, in terms of water, food and fuel for generators.
You may need to run a check on room availability, for possible fleeing walk-in guests. And for those guests who were due to check-out that day but who are now forced to stay longer. Or for guests who did check-out but may already be on their way back to the hotel because boats or flights have been cancelled, roads are blocked or they’ve been turned back by officials.
Every hotel has a different calamity response process and different resources available, depending on the situation. Make sure you are aware of what they are at the Hotel where you work.
Remember, as helpful as you want to be, it is always important to check with, and update your supervisor, or Manager, if you can deliver on something, before you make any promises to guests or staff.
During natural disasters, particularly typhoons, communication can be the biggest source of stress. Damaged power lines and telecommunication towers mean dead cellphones or weak, to no, signal.
When you are worried sick about your family and loved ones, not being able to contact them and check on their situation can cause anxiety and fear. Hotels usually have a back up power source, so guests can at least charge their devices. Which increases their chances of being able to reach their loved ones once signal is restored.
Better communication resources are also available in hotels such as landlines and stronger internet connection. Some even have satellite phones, ready for such a situation.
Whatever it is you can do to help facilitate communication between guests and their loved ones, by all means, try. This may be a calm and measured post on the hotels social media pages, confirming everyone is safe and well. Or on the local DOT or destination Facebook Page.
Knowing that their relatives or loved ones are aware that they are safe, can help your guests breathe a sigh of relief, and calm down.
With better resources and contacts, hoteliers usually have access to helpful information that can be relayed to guests. Keep yourself updated on the current situation and be ready to provide the correct information to guests.
This includes cancellation or rescheduling of flights, road closures and closed sea ports. Other useful information is whether certain establishments are open or closed, weather updates or any other information that is relevant to the calamity you are facing.
During times of crisis, having access to correct and up-to-date information is crucial to being able to make good decisions for your guests and your staff.
Ideally, your want to keep your guests as calm as possible. Providing up to date and accurate information will help with this. However, sometimes that is not enough.
You may have an especially nervous or anxious guest. They may be triggered by memories of an earlier, calamitous experience in their life. Or they may already be experiencing other difficulties or have received bad news.
You can reassure them that you and the hotel will do whatever you can to provide assistance. And that they are not alone in this. Sometimes, guests just need someone to talk to, to be able to process their emotions during a crisis. And a little empathy goes a long way.
Check out John’s tips for Providing Great Service in extreme situations. You may find some useful tips to add to your skills set.
Many hotels organize their own donation drive, within the company, where employees or guests can give what they can in cash, or in-kind.
Employees can be encouraged to give blankets, clothes and necessities such as drinking water, ready-to-eat food such as canned goods and biscuits, and milk for babies.
Guests may want to donate money to relief drives for the local people, affected by the calamity. Or will go out to the shops, once it’s safe, to purchase things like candles, solar lights and fans, or water and food.
If you are a hotelier who has some cash or items to spare, take this opportunity to share your blessings to those who need it more than you.
Hotels are no longer just places to have staycations. During times of natural disasters and calamities, hotels also stand as a safe shelter, and even as a recovery headquarters. This is why a hotelier’s role during natural disasters is crucial.
Few establishments can provide what hotels can; a structurally-sound building, a supply of food and water, communication lines and employees who are, ideally, trained on how to deal with emergencies.
Every hotel responds differently depending on the severity of the situation. Or their capacity to help. However, most hotels will usually go above and beyond to provide help and assistance. Not only to guests and employees but also to the entire community.
Our Hearts, Thoughts and Prayers are with all of those affected by Typhoon Odette (Dec 2021).
Have you experienced being on duty during a natural disaster? Any memorable stories you wish to share? Add them in the comments section!