Lessons Learned in Disaster Resilience and Response from Wellington New Zealand Hotels
Final installment in a four part series exploring disaster resilience in the hotel sector
By Nancy Brown PhD Emergency Management, Joint Centre for Disaster Research | November 10, 2019
In November 2016, New Zealand's South Island experienced a 7.8 Mw earthquake. The earthquake occurred at two minutes after midnight 37 miles from a small tourist destination, Kaikõura. The shaking was felt across a large geographic area and included the capital city of New Zealand, Wellington. Wellington is at the southern end of the North Island, 160 miles from the earthquake epicenter.
The first three articles in this series defined resilience in the hotel context and outlined a framework describing predictors of resilience for hotels and using that information develop an understanding of the resilience factors for hotels in two New Zealand tourist destinations. This article will build on that information, in the context of the aftermath of this earthquake event. This is an executive summary of a research article by Brown, Feldmann-Jensen, et al which is currently under review with the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.
The midnight presentation of the earthquake creates a number of unique challenges. As is standard industry practice, the night auditor and few support staff were present at the properties when the shaking started. Guests were all tucked in for the night and in most cases awakened by the shaking. This article describes some of the experiences of three different hotel properties in Wellington. A series of interviews with both management and hourly staff in a variety of departments across the properties provides an opportunity to learn from those experiences and ground truth some important lessons in organizational resilience.
The earthquake, while not centered in Wellington area, was severe enough to require the cordoning off of many parts of the downtown area. The city also asked that residents and visitors stay off the central city streets following the earthquake to allow time to inspect building structures and exteriors for safety. This request left visitors confined to their hotels for a full day while inspections were made. The damage ultimately included a large block of apartments, shops, restaurants, and theaters that were adjacent to a parking structure so all people and businesses had to be cordoned and evacuated for a number of months.
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