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Venues & Destinations
Meetings Industry Rebounds in The Palm Beaches after Hurricane Irma
The Palm Beaches has recovered from Hurricane Irma, especially as it relates to the groups and meetings industry. According to Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO for Palm Beach County’s tourism marketing organization Discover The Palm Beaches (DTPB), the destination is continuing to welcome meetings, conferences, and events.
“While being sensitive to those areas that were hardest hit, we want to portray an accurate picture of the minimal storm impact here in The Palm Beaches,” said Pesquera. “This area is ready and open for business, and we are welcoming visitors and major convention groups.”
Conventions are strong contributors to the local economy, as they drive hotel occupancy for many properties in Palm Beach County. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of groups and meetings booked for this destination in the past year,” said Pesquera. “Planners should be confident we are prepared and ready to service the meeting and convention attendees.”
Pesquera pointed out that the Palm Beach County Convention Center (PBCCC) and the Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), two frequently-used resources for groups and meetings visitors, are both open for business. PBI was the first airport in South Florida to reopen following the storm.
“Our Palm Beach County Convention Center staff, in partnership with the Palm Beach County Facilities Departments, have done an amazing job with post-storm cleanup at the facility, and within the county,” said Dave Anderson, general manager for the PBCCC. “We are already back online, and extremely excited to host a number of upcoming national events, including the upcoming prestigious 42nd annual Regional Airlines Association Conference on September 24-27, 2017.”
Bruce Pelly, director of airports for Palm Beach County, confirmed that the airport was operational on Monday, September 11. “Our Operations and Maintenance Teams at PBI worked tirelessly with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and our airline partners to be best prepared and ready to resume service as quickly as we did post-Hurricane Irma, while keeping safety our number one priority,” said Pelly. “We are grateful to have had the opportunity to accommodate our passengers as expediently as we did, offering the first flights in and out of South Florida.”
Kelly Cavers, senior vice president of group sales for DPTB, said the destination’s hotels were fortunate to have been able to accommodate both the first responders, as well as meetings and conventions attendees. “We are honored to be hosting the Regional Airlines Association’s conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center next week,” said Cavers. “The regional airline industry has been a key player for individuals and communities affected by Hurricane Irma. It seems fittingly appropriate to host a conference that provides education to this important industry on matters regarding safe, reliable and robust service.”
The Palm Beaches are made up of 47 miles of coastline, and hotels and resorts all the way from the northern part of Palm Beach County in Palm Beach Gardens to the southernmost city of Boca Raton were able to accommodate guests. Hotels surrounding the Palm Beach County Convention Center were minimally impacted, with all hotels able to function at full operational capacity.
John L. Parkinson, general manager of the Hilton West Palm Beach, said the hotel was not impacted. “Our thoughts are with the entire South Florida community and those affected by Hurricane Irma,” said Parkinson. “We remained open before, during and after the storm made landfall. We are incredibly fortunate to not have been impacted and grateful to have been able to provide shelter to our guests, team members and first responders during the storm. We are open and look forward to welcoming guests.” The Hilton West Palm Beach is South Florida’s only hotel physically connected to a convention center.
“At West Palm Beach Marriott, we were prepared to serve our guests and associates before, during and after Hurricane Irma,” said Shelly Pappas, general manager for the hotel. “We were able to house guests and associates, both during and after the hurricane, with minimal disruption in services.”
President of Kolter Hospitality, Scott Webb, said the Hyatt Place West Palm Beach/Downtown was fortunate not to lose power during the storm. “Our hotel remained open and fully staffed, and hosted a full house of guests throughout Hurricane Irma,” said Webb. “We could not be prouder of our team members that were able, willing and prepared to do whatever was necessary to ensure the safety and comfort of our guests. The Hyatt Place in downtown West Palm Beach is fully operational, and looks forward to providing continued support, lodging and services now and moving forward post-Hurricane Irma.”
David Fine, senior vice president of sales and market development at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, said the resort never lost power. Home to the Honda Classic, the legendary golf resort is welcoming a full convention next week. “We’re thrilled to have one of our largest conventions for the year checking in next week as planned,” said Fine. “We were fortunate to remain fully operational during Hurricane Irma. We serviced both our many guests, and their furry friends of all sizes.” The resort kept standard operations, with full food and beverage service. The famed Championship Golf Course is open, The Spa at PGA National, Sports & Racquet Club, and golf operations are all fully operational.
John Tolbert, president and managing director of Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, said, “Thankfully we emerged from Hurricane Irma without any major damages to the property and each of our guests and team members remained completely safe. We are beyond proud of our phenomenal team for their dedication to ensuring the safety of our guests and fellow team members.”
2016 was DTPB’s highest convention booking year in its history, and officials with DTPB say they are confident that 2017 will see even higher numbers than ever before.
About Discover The Palm Beaches
Discover The Palm Beaches, formerly the Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the official tourism marketing corporation that promotes the collection of 39 cities and towns and 15 tourism districts spanning more than 2,200 square miles and 47 miles of pristine beaches from Boca Raton to Jupiter and Tequesta, commonly referred to as “The Palm Beaches.” Tourism is among Palm Beach County’s major industries, generating $4.6 billion in direct visitor spending and supporting more than 66,000 jobs with an economic impact of approximately $7 billion. Once recognized as a tropical escape for elite travelers in the late 1800s, America’s First Resort Destination® is making its resurgence as The Best Way To Experience Florida®, welcoming a record-breaking 7.35 million people in 2016. The Palm Beaches are home to nearly 17,000 hotel rooms, ranging from historic resorts to boutique inns. The destination features more than 100 family-friendly attractions, world-class luxury and antique shopping experiences, 125 miles of peaceful waterways for on- or in-the-water activities, more than 150 artificial reefs that line the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream current, 160 golf courses, award-winning restaurants, and a thriving entertainment scene boasting more than 200 art and culture organizations. For more information about The Palm Beaches, visit www.ThePalmBeaches.com.
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