As the industry comes to grips with both the human and business impact of the worst disaster to strike our nation and our industry, a number of industry associations, CVBs and individuals have rallied to the support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Here is just a partial look at the outpouring of support.
- As seen in national news reports, many victims of the storm who had taken shelter in the Louisiana Superdome were bussed to the Reliant Astrodome in Houston which is part of a larger complex that also includes the Reliant Arena and Reliant Center. These facilities are now also housing refugees; the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates there are some 25,000 people sheltered at the complex. The city’s other major exhibition space, the George R. Brown Convention Center, is housing approximately 5,000 refugees.
- CVBs throughout the country have contacted the New Orleans CVB to offer to host dislocated shows.
- Dallas was one of the first to make such an offer, as well as to provide discounted hotel rooms to refugees. Offers such as this have come from throughout the country, helping to alleviate some of the concern about the many refugees flooding into Texas. The Dallas Convention Center is also housing refugees; estimates place the number at over 3,000. Other shelters stretch from West Virginia to Utah to private homes throughout the country.
- San Francisco’s hospitality industry has reacted to the Gulf Coast disaster with an outpouring of relief efforts, from special benefit events to matching donations to the American Red Cross and other organizations. These relief efforts are posted on their web site, www.sfvisitor.org as they are announced.
- The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) Foundation has created the Katrina Relief Fund to collect money for trade show industry relief. “Our trade show industry was right in the bulls-eye of this storm,” said TSEA President Steve Schuldenfrei. “We’re not waiting for the flood to subside to raise the money. We know that there will be a huge recovery effort required, so we are launching the effort to raise the funds now.” The Foundation board will determine how the money will be distributed but he expects it will be given on a personal level, such as for retraining or equipment buys.
TSEA has also begun compiling a list of affected shows, available on its web site. Currently, 24 shows are listed, 23 of which were scheduled to take place in New Orleans. Seven of the events have already announced new venues and dates.
- The International Association for Exhibition Management (IAEM) has also offered to help its members, making efforts to contact each member in the affected region and to assist those who need to relocate events. To coordinate the relocation effort, a Special Task Force of the Associations has been created. Participants include IAEM, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), Destination Marketing Association International (formerly IACVB), the International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA).
- Representatives from the Exhibit Designers & Producers Association (EDPA), the EDPA Foundation and the Exhibitor-Appointed Contractors Association (EACA), along with others, are in the process of creating a communication hub for the exhibit and event industries. The hub will match needs with resources via an Internet portal. EDPA is asking industry members to provide the association with information on areas of need, available resources, current initiatives taking place or success stories to feed into this communication outreach. To help as many individuals and companies within our industry in a timely manner, EDPA asks that industry members complete the Exhibit & Event Industry Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort form and submit it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Exposition Service Contractors Association (ESCA) will create a bulletin board on www.ESCA.org that will enable individuals looking for work, shelter, or moving to a new area to place requests for assistance on the site. Companies that have temporary or permanent positions, or that can offer temporary housing or other resources, can post these on the site. In addition, individuals who are interested in mentoring those who are relocating to new cities such as offering assistance in finding housing, schools, and how to get medical assistance are urged to put their information on the website. ESCA also plans to create a form which will be distributed to the Union leaders of all affiliated workforces. This form can be completed by people looking for either temporary or permanent work with their experience level and where they are relocating. ESCA will send these to the various contractors in the appropriate area in an attempt to speed the process. ESCA will be working with the union leadership to distribute these forms.
- GES Exposition Services, Inc. is providing long-term monetary and housing assistance to its 70+ employees who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina through its GES Employee Recovery Fund.
The fund was established with contributions from GES, its senior management, and parent company Viad Corp.; donations will be accepted from employees of Viad and its subsidiaries, as well as from outside agencies and individuals. Viad Corp. will match all donations made to the fund up to $100,000.
“Our people are our greatest asset,” said Paul Dykstra, GES President and CEO. “I’m pleased to report that GES has made contact with all of our New Orleans based employees and that they and their immediate family members are safe. Many of our employees were severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina and it’s important to provide assistance to them as they work to rebuild their lives,” he said. Dykstra also announced that GES would match donations made by GES employees to the American Red Cross in support of Hurricane Katrina victims.
- Freeman and AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions reported that all employees have now checked in, are safe and have temporary living arrangements outside the city. Joe Popolo, President of Freeman , and Craig Smith, President-U.S. of AVW-TELAV, said in an announcement that the company has made arrangements for them to get immediate paychecks, and are also working on short-term and long-term solutions for their positions with the company. Freeman expects to set up a voluntary donation fund for employees and friends who wish to send money. The company is coordinating a centralized effort by all branch offices to provide assistance to our employees and clients affected by Hurricane.