The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Whether you took piano or dance lessons or played T-ball or basketball during your youth, more than likely your pursuits included the element of practice. The teacher or coach led you through scenarios that prepared you for what to do when you were tickling the ivories in front of a packed audience or what to do when the outcome of the game was on the line.
The staffs at Norman’s lodging establishments began to put their training into practice the week of May 20 as the EF-5 tornado struck less than 10 miles from their properties.
Each of these properties filled up in the blink of an eye, from displaced residents whose homes were uninhabitable to insurance adjusters who arrived to assess damage and assist customers to public safety and law enforcement officers needed in the damaged areas.
As the Convention and Visitors Bureau staff was supporting our hotel partners, we also circulated procedural information from The American Red Cross and Oklahoma Hospitality and Lodging Association to make sure the first priority for rooms in Norman went to those whose residences were damaged.
Further on down the line, we received calls about availability for rooms in the Norman area not already marked for tornado victims for the media arriving to cover the story and the staffers who would be working on the telecast of the NCAA softball Super Regional that would be played at Marita Hynes Field on the University of Oklahoma campus. With nearly 1,000 rooms at the Marriott-operated National Center for Education Development (NCED), we were able to help fulfill those requests.
However, many properties also got creative to alleviate the demand. Booked in the fall of 2012, a conference was meeting last week at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center. As beds were needed for people who lost their homes, the attendees voluntarily doubled up to free up nearly 100 rooms for both Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The Hilton Garden Inn has been so packed with guests that the staff has been distributing visitors guides and maps like candy to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
Because of the training these lodging establishments regularly provide on how to best handle an “all hands on deck” scenario along with other more specialized training that programs like the Certified Training Ambassador program provide, our hotel industry answered the call and put into practice how to handle the kind of influx that materialized the week of May 20.
Stefanie Brickman, CTA, is the communications manager of the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau. The NCVB exists to promote the city, to attract overnight meeting, convention, sport and tourism business to the community, and to enhance and contribute to the overall identity and economic wellbeing of the city. The Vision of the Norman Convention & Visitors Bureau is to be the leader who proactively markets and develops Norman as the preferred destination in Oklahoma.