If you contact the Courtyard Marriott in Rye you’ll hear a familiar message. “Due to Sandy disaster we are unable to take your call.” The hurricane that lasted a few hours left a legacy of destruction that has many commercial businesses enduring their second week of inconvenience and yet-to-be measured profit losses.
The hospitality industry in Westchester County just this year started to shows signs of recovery after being hit hard by the economic downturn. Then came Sandy. The hurricane whipped through the region, causing power outages and flooding buildings as well as homes. Hotels across the county entertained calls from patrons stranded because of the storm.
Daniel Conte, general manager of the Marriott in Tarrytown and head of the Westchester Hotel Association, admitted it has been a challenge. “There’s an endless balance,” Conte said. “We’re replacing the cancellations with local customers, but it’s a mixed bag.”
For the more than 30 members of the association, most have felt some impact from the storm, whether it’s down phone lines or displaced employees. Some hotels were able to accommodate those who needed a room because they could not remain in their homes, but others were too crippled by the storm’s impact.
Tarrytown House in Dobbs Ferry is known for hosting events for clients ranging from large conference gatherings to small wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs. But they lost power for five days due to Sandy and were forced to shut down. Elsewhere, hotels juggled generators and grappled with delayed food delivery, Conte said.
The timing of the storm, months after many hotels could finally boast about gaining ground lost during the Great Recession, seemed almost cruel. Reports estimate regional hotels suffered 30 percent business losses during that grim financial time. While it’s still too early to tell how Sandy will impact the long-term financial portrait of hotels countywide, it will be measurable. Conte said that’s because of the timing of the hurricane. He added, “If it were August we might be able to compensate, but for some hotels the loss of revenues might only show incremental gains to modestly replace the loss.”
Despite the significant financial loss, customers are coping as best they can with moderate levels of inconvenience and many are managing without the comforts of home. It has been, for most in the hotel community, a time to reach out to do whatever needs to be done. Conte admitted he even had to reach out to hotels in New Jersey to provide rooms for customers in need of services he could not provide for the moment.
So for now, it’s about looking forward. Though the holidays are typically a slow season in the hotel industry, Conte remains hopeful the hotels that have enjoyed the patronage of locals and tourists visiting the county will be back to business as usual by Thanksgiving.