It’s been several weeks since Hurricane Sandy battered the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States and Canada, but the aftershocks of that terrible storm just seem to go on and on and on. From widespread power outages to flooding to the destruction of homes and businesses, many people will be trying to recover from these losses for many years. And our hearts and prayers go out to them.
Hundreds of Marriott and Ritz-Carlton properties were in the path of the storm, and New York City and New Jersey were particularly hard hit. Nearly 10,000 associates work at managed and franchised properties in that area, and many suffered damage to their homes. While several of our hotels had to close temporarily to make repairs, I’m delighted to say that they are now all open for business and welcoming guests.
Fortunately, no injuries were reported at our hotels, but the challenges have been truly tremendous. I hear new stories every day of the selfless, determined and even heroic actions of our associates to take care of our guests, neighbors and other associates – during and after the storm.
As the storm approached New York City, a handful of associates at the New York Marriott Downtown Hotel stayed there to “batten down the hatches.” That evening, water rushed into the lobby and basement. Within 15 minutes, the water was up to the handles of the front door. Engineering Supervisor Rafael Ayala was trying to pump water out of the lobby, when he looked up and saw his own car float by. Without hesitation, Rafael kept his focus on the task at hand and continued working. He and many other associates stayed night after night at the hotel to protect our assets and ultimately get everything back up and running.
Throughout the storm and for days afterward, Marina Reig, general manager of the Courtyard Lebanon in New Jersey, stayed to help take care of the many guests and associates who needed their assistance. When she finally returned home days later, she learned that flooding had reached the second floor of her own home.
At these Marriott locations and many others, associates worked hard to protect their hotels and take care of the people who were staying there. They slept on-property, pitched in wherever help was needed, assisted local authorities, and much, much more.
Across our company, other hotels and their teams are doing what they can to help – raising funds, donating to relief organizations, organizing blood drives and volunteering their time to assist those affected. Some hotels are donating guest rooms and meeting space to relief organizations and emergency responders.
The New York area is one of our most important markets, and our associates are the heart and soul of our company. We want to help them get back on their feet, especially as we approach the holiday season. That's why Marriott International and The J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott Foundation are contributing $500,000 toward aid and recovery efforts. Half will be donated to the American Red Cross to help meet immediate community needs, and half will go to longer-term recovery efforts.
I am very proud of our associates. They always rise to the challenge, and I’m truly grateful for their extraordinary dedication to their fellow employees, hotel guests and communities.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.