Anyone who has lived through a disaster that befalls a community can attest to the sense of togetherness and camaraderie that helps bind people together in a crisis. This week, in the wake of the tsunami that destroyed whole towns in Japan and damaged Hawaii’s coastline, communities have been pulling together to help get business back on track. A notable example is at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii’s Big Island, which shut down for six weeks of repairs following the devastation“It’s amazing what good comes from this stuff when everyone works together,” said Ciro Tacinelli, the hotel’s marketing director. “This is a wonderful team of people, and it’s wonderful to see how everyone is pulling together in a crisis. It’s no fun being closed,” he acknowledged quickly, “but we feel worse about what’s happening in Japan.”
The resort, he continued, is right on ocean. “That’s why we got hit the hardest. Oceanfront means that if the water rises, we get damaged.” Seawater flowed into the property, going into pools and ground-level guestrooms. “But the property slopes up, so few guestrooms were affected,” Tacinelli explained. “The ocean flowed in and out, and there was no structural impact. There was no real damage. If there had been, there would be a longer delay and more questions about safety.” Debris was also strewn around the resort—mostly plants and grass. Four Seasons keeps a team of professionals on hand to go to hotels and resorts and quickly fix anything that needs repairing. “Because seawater came in, the grass needs to be replaced,” Tacinelli offered as an example. “We’re flying sod in from a neighboring island. We’re getting new plants along the beachfront, and we’re fixing up any rooms that had any water damage.” Perhaps most importantly, the hotel is keeping is staff together during the six-week closure. The whole team will continue to receive their regular paychecks, and those who get tips will get an average of what they would normally earn during a pay period. “We had meeting yesterday with the employees,” Tacinelli said. “There was applause and relief. Someone came up to me and said, ‘My husband & I were worrying about what we’d do all month.’” Many of the employees will continue to show up for work every day and will help with the cleanup efforts, he added. When the resort returns at the end of April, all of the staff members will return with it. Four Seasons is calling all guests who had reservations between now and April 30 to help make alternate plans. Of course, Tacinelli added, it takes time to get in touch with everyone, so agents and clients alike are encouraged to call 800-332-3442 if they want to rearrange their bookings. Tacinelli hopes that the rumor mills will stay quiet during the six weeks that the hotel is closed. “People make assumptions. Rumors spread quickly,” he acknowledged. “The reason we delayed opening is because we want it to be as close to perfect as possible, and the extra time will let us do that. People pay a premium for the Hualalai experience."