Attractions Downtown Disney Walt Disney World
You had to be there to believe it!
Oct 10, 2017
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In the spirit of full disclosure, I support the marketing efforts at the “closest hotel to Disney Springs,” the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Area. It’s a staff and property I have long been a fan of – years before serving as a public relations representative. People who know me are well aware that I would never support something I do not believe in.

Like most businesses, when we do things above and beyond, PR people want people to know. Still, it did not feel right to our senior leadership to blow our own horn and self-promote when so many people and places were devastated by Hurricane Irma.

I’ve been thinking about my approach for the better part of the last week or two, and it came to me – where else – but on the golf course.

I was playing in the Central Florida Hospitality and Lodging Tournament as a guest of General Manager Jay Leonard – and was paired with his thoughtful manager of e-commerce, Brad Houghton. As we chatted in the golf cart, I was struck by how proud Brad was of his fellow associates and the manner in which they truly weathered the ferocious storm.

Brad, his family and in-laws moved into the hotel as did many of the staff to make sure the guests were safe and given the best possible experience.

I’ve since done some snooping around – I cannot help myself as a former network reporter.

First and foremost, I was not there but in Chicago on a business trip at the time. After Irma moved on, Leonard told me “Our structure was a solid as a rock.”

So too was the resort staff, according to Director of Housekeeping Lynn Dale.

“Our entire 80-person housekeeping team arrived early on Saturday and exceeded our goal of getting everyone home by midday,” Dale said. “We are in the hospitality business and our hotel was sold out – mostly people looking for somewhere to stay out of harm’s way.”

A number of housekeepers volunteered to stay at the Wyndham to care for the needs of our guests. Some married couples who work at the resort took turns working then caring for their children, who also stayed with them at the hotel during the dangerous weather.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Fun Director Jill Arnold assembled a team of volunteers to convert the facility’s 25,000 square feet of convention space into a recreational center for the children and families, who watched movies on the big screen, played bingo, and had lots of video and board games to entertain them.

“The ballroom was packed,” said Dale. “During the height of the storm, our staff secured doors and windows for more than six hours, and guests were afforded every possible accommodation.”

Pets, too, found shelter.

“Governor Scott asked that all hotels waive their pet rules, and we had one of our beautiful tower rooms housing a family with as many as five dogs,” added Leonard.

Up to nine housekeeping staff members’ homes were still without power heading into the weekend, but reported to work at the Disney Springs Resort.

“I am extremely proud of the way our team came together, but this is what we do,” Leonard said. “We prepare during the calm before the storm, and are so relieved this one has passed.”

In all, over 100 Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area employees remained working throughout the storm to ensure guests were safe, sound, well-nourished and comfortable during Irma’s wrath.

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George McNeilly

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