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22 Hurricane

Paradise restored: a hotel manager takes stock and fights back

Clifton Reader says the biggest problem was water in the guest rooms

Hotels were better off than residential areas as they had the manpower and resources to quickly reopen

Clifton Reader was ready for Hurricane Ivan. “With disasters like hurricanes, it’s all about how you prepare for them,” says the general manager of holiday complex Beaches Negril in north-west Jamaica.

Preparation paid off. “We had some water damaged rooms and some roof damage, but apart from that we came out of it well.”

But still damage happened, and for a luxury resort, appearance is everything. Guests pay large amounts of money to visit paradise.

brushed past Jamaica. Guests from other resorts who had chosen not to leave the area were moved to the complex because it was further back from the sea than other hotels in the area.

Many other staff from other hotels moved in to help. Each manager was assigned to one floor in the resort and had direct responsibil- ity for guests on that floor.

“We had three general meetings before the storm hit to advise the guests and to let them know what was going to happen,” says Reader.

Once they knew what we were doing they were reassured. They felt confident that we were able to look after them.”

Guests stayed in their rooms during the storm. “Most went to their rooms about half an hour before it hit. They stayed in their rooms for about a day, until the storm had passed and we could make sure that the surroundings were safe.”

Relied on generators

“Through the help of other hotels and people we managed to reopen quickly. In the end we were closed for only two weeks, and we opened with 80% of our rooms available,” says Reader

Beaches Negril was 85% full at the time Ivan

“We had information boards with details of evacuation flights and travel desks in the hotel. People could look at the information and see if there was a fight going near where they wanted.

“The majority of guests were fairly calm.

During the storm itself, the national grid was turned off to minimise damage, leaving the resort to rely on its generators. The water also was shut off, with two water tanks filled to provide for guests. The phone connections though remained functional.

But despite the minor damage Beaches Negril suffered, a major effort was needed from all staff to achieve the reopening only two weeks after Ivan passed by.

“We were closed for only two weeks, and we opened with 80% of our rooms available”

Clifton Reader, hotel manager

“The biggest problem was water in the guest rooms. We had to go through each room in the hotel and fix them one by one. It took three or four weeks to do all of them.”

And what lessons have been learnt from Hurricane Ivan?

“A lot of the effects came afterwards but you have to react quickly to respond to them,” says Reader. IT

Insurancetimes | 7 April 2005 | www.insurancetimes.co.uk

Settling the pay-outs

Jamaica has seen many whirlwind bowlers on its cricket pitches, but lessons learned from the 1988 Hurricane Gilbert made sure the West Indies wasn’t stumped by Hurricane Ivan.

Karen Bhoorasingh, general manager for operations of the West Indies Alliance Insurance Company (WIA) says: “The whole of the country was more prepared for Ivan than for Gilbert. The government reacted to the threat and we had so much more warning.”

Ivan passed Jamaica on the Friday, and WIA was open for business on the Monday. In line with other Caribbean insurers, it developed a catastrophe plan which was put in place once the island was on alert. This meant loss adjusters were notified and the whole process was “manageable”.

Loss adjusters

“We said to brokers call us before contacting loss adjusters, so we had a han- dle on what has happening and had an idea of what the loss was before we appointed loss adjusters.”

The first week of the disaster was about management. “Customers need to know we have appointed a loss adjuster.

“By the second week they need to have been visited by a loss adjuster. This gives them someone to contact and they can see that something is being done.

“The next stage is an initial assessment, then interim payments, and then a final settlement.”

Following the rush of claims in the first few days following Ivan, the rate of notifica- tions tailed off within the week.

Bhoorasingh says she was even able to visit brokers during this time, a reflection perhaps of the lessons learned from Gilbert.

By the end of January, 70% of the claims arising from Ivan had been settled. “The remaining 30% are the difficult ones,” says Bhoorasingh.

Policy wordings

“This part is the technical interpretation of the policy wording and the people skills of the claims handlers and underwriters. It can make the claim settlement very amicable, or cause it to go very badly.”

WIA had, at the end of January, processed more than 450 claims, all dealt with by a team of six people. Approximately 90% of this commercial book is property.

The demands of reinsurers has also changed. “Reinsurers were on the phone wanting loss estimates the next day,” she says.

“Last year was the worst renewal season for reinsurance. I think that there are a few reinsurers who found that there could be fall-out from a hurricane and some of them are reassessing.

“They are not sure of their roles here any- more. Their traditional role was to protect the insurer, but now they want to be involved in the claims process as well.”

“Reinsurers were on the phone wanting loss estimates the next day”

Karen Bhoorasingh, insurer

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