Marriott received plenty of bad publicity aftermath of the hurricane Irma when it became public that it had commissioned ship to rescue more than 600 stranded guests from St. Thomas, but had left all others behind on the dock when the ship had had plenty of space to accommodate more.
As we hadn’t covered hurricane Irma and what happened couple of weeks before in Texas, I decided to take a pass on this story. Marriott has now publicly commented to Forbes what actually happened on that day and why they were not allowed to take non-guests.
You can access the Forbes piece here of which below is an excerpt:
Tim Sheldon, President of the Caribbean and Latin America for Marriott International.
Sheldon: We had to operate within very strict parameters to have the best chance of making them comfortable with this operation. Because of the governmental entities with power over exits and documentation on the island, part of what we had to do was to submit detailed guest information for the ferry manifest. (The authorities required legal names, ages, dates of birth and medical information for every passenger they were going to allow to come on board). We got permission from our guests to release this [information] and we gave [the local authorities] a detailed manifest in response to this requirement.
Sheldon: We did everything we could to help, ultimately to no avail. Approximately 35 people who were not Marriott guests, and therefore whose names were not on the detailed manifest required by the local authorities, arrived at the dock gates wanting passage off the island.
Sheldon: To our understanding, these were guests from other hotels and some local residents as well. Beyond that, we are limited in our knowledge, but this had no effect on our desire to assist.
Sheldon: The security personnel employed by the dock company would not—and we asked them repeatedly–allow them through the port gates and boarding area, because they were not on the manifest we prepared in advance, as a requirement for the boat to depart for international waters.
The general managers who run our hotels on St. Thomas tried to work with dock personnel to allow them to get on the ship—we certainly had room aboard, which makes this both frustrating and disheartening.
This must have been very difficult situation. They had clearance from the government to take the guests out and would have been willing to take the other people too that had turned in at the dock but were not allowed by the security personnel.
Very difficult to put any blame on Marriott under this situation. They had made arrangements to evacuate guests who had not been able to get out from the island by any other means because other hurricane (Jose) could potentially hit the island.
This Forbes piece is worth a read. Marriott is well prepared for natural disasters and is willing to do the right thing regardless of the costs.