Hoboken is Hob"open"
Local businesses in Hoboken, N.J., many of which were affected by Hurricane Sandy, are getting some attention and support from their local chamber of commerce. Earlier this month the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign, “Heart Hoboken? Let's Keep the Charm,” promoting the city as a place to eat, drink and shop.
According to an article on NJ.com, Greg DellAquilla, president of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, says that since Hurricane Sandy, “many business owners are reporting business has been down roughly 30 to 70 percent, depending on where they are located.” But, he noted, “We are open for business. The hurricane left out-of-towners unaware that we are open, or hesitant to come here thinking that there is a lot of damage. And there was...but there are perhaps 20 stores that are still closed while hundreds and hundreds are open.”
Read more about the chamber’s campaign here.
ACCE Alleviates Pain From ABC Demise
It was impossible to address the declaration of bankruptcy by one of ACCE’s travel sponsors, ABC Destinations, without encountering problems and friction for members and hundreds of travelers. When ACCE senior staff received the news from the company’s president in early October of the impending financial meltdown at ABC, they took deliberate steps to alert members and craft workable options for the 18 chambers that had reservations pending for more than 600 travelers.
The stakes were high, with $2+ million in payments made by travelers and chambers in jeopardy. One chamber alone had nearly 100 paid reservations at roughly $2,500 per ticket. It wasn’t just the money; many travelers had made plans with friends and families to extend their travels, based on the “core” itineraries of the ABC trips. Some of the departure dates for ABC’s fall schedule were less than three weeks after the company’s demise. The avenues to pursue were limited, given that the entire ABC staff had been terminated. Phones and computers were “locked” on advice of legal counsel.
ACCE’s Senior Vice President Chris Mead went to work immediately, serving as a one-man information clearinghouse for affected organizations. He arranged conference calls, sought answers from legal counsel and consulted with travel experts. He tirelessly sought ways to ease the pain for chambers that were first exposed to ABC through ACCE marketing channels. He tried to find alternatives to massive cancellations, traveler outrage and financial liability for chambers. The most important lifeline he grasped during this period was extended by former ABC employee Carl Monticelli. Despite losing his job, Carl wanted to help the chambers that he had introduced to ABC. He was answering chambers’ questions on his cell phone from home, without any expectation of compensation for his efforts.
Through Carl’s behind-the-scenes efforts, Chris was introduced to the Sakkara Group, an Egyptian-based travel conglomerate that had recently entered the North American market through acquisition. As chambers attempted to communicate worst-case scenarios and faint rays of hope to hundreds of hundreds of travelers, Chris Mead and Carl Monticelli brought the principals from Sakkara and Central Holidays (US subsidiary) to the ACCE offices. They hashed out a go-forward solution that ensured viable options for all 18 chambers and almost every traveler.
Central Holidays/Sakkara agreed to run every trip as close to identical to the originally booked tours – on the same timelines – as those originally booked through ABC Destinations. There would be almost no additional costs for either the chambers or the travelers. They didn’t have to do any of this. They were not connected to ABC and certainly had no responsibility or financial obligation. Central Holidays wants to establish itself as a group travel company that is committed to the chamber community. Through their exceptionally generous support and skill they demonstrated during the post-ABC crisis, they’ve done just that.
Were the solutions perfect for all parties? Given the timing and scale of the challenges, no plan could have been. Even given problems with re-booking hundreds of flights, lining up new guides and securing accommodations in Italy, Israel and other countries, the dreaded no-trip/no-refund outcome was avoided for almost every traveler. The chambers involved worked hard and successfully to make necessary adjustments in order to keep their travelers on the promised trips.
ACCE thanks Central Holidays/Sakkara for its wonderful work and hefty investment on behalf of our members. Virtually all of the revised arrangements were made under intense calendar and communications pressure. Many of the arrangements were carried out and adapted as the firm’s headquarters building in New Jersey was swamped by Sandy. Carl Monticelli’s personal commitment was unprecedented. ACCE is proud to welcome Central Holidays/Sakkara as a Corporate Sponsor and preferred provider of the Association.
This experience provided a powerful reminder to Fleming’s first rule of business: We can’t always control what happens, but we can control how we deal with what happens.
Frank Ryll, Jr. Honored in Miami
Last week, ACCE Life Member and former Board Chair, Frank Ryll, Jr. was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Ryll was recognized during the sixth annual International Business Leadership Awards at Miami’s Jungle Island. The awards program recognizes business leadership in international activities that significantly impact the economy of South Florida.
Ryll began his business career at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, moved to the Greater Greenville, S.C. Chamber, and joined the Florida Chamber in January 1980 as senior V.P. for economic development. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to president. Since then both the foundation and the chamber have grown to be the premier voice for Florida’s businesses, and a benchmark for chambers across the country. In his current role as director of global outreach, he is helping secure Florida’s future by leading the Florida Chamber’s efforts to double Florida-origin exports by 2015 and make the state a hub for international trade and logistics.
Frank Ryll (center) accepting his award with Commissioner Willie Gort of CAMOCOL and Olga Ramudo, Owner of Express Travel. Photo Source: www.flchamber.com
Post-Sandy Support: You can still help
A month has passed since Hurricane Sandy’s wrath and many of our friends and colleagues are still cleaning up the damage in areas hardest hit by the storm. As we enter the season of giving, consider supporting communities and businesses affected by Sandy. Below is a message Jack Friedman, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, wrote in response to a fellow ACCE member’s request on how her members can help.
“As I am quickly learning, the needs after a disaster like this change daily. While clean-up efforts continue, we have been inundated with supplies like clothing and water. Now that power has been re-stored to most, our early needs of flashlights, batteries and generators has waned. There is still a need for winter coats, hats and blankets and personal health items like toothbrushes, soap and cleaning supplies. What is needed most however is financial support. Many organizations have been set-up to receive support. However, those contributions do not always wind up going to the intended communities. Our Chamber of Commerce (as well as the Chambers in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan) have all set-up relief funds as part of our 501 C-3 Chamber Foundations. In each case, 100% of the money received will go directly to businesses in the impacted areas.”
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Foundation: 2012 MCC Small Business Recovery Fund
The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Foundation is working with business partners to raise funds for small businesses throughout the city affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Foundation is accepting donations and small grants will be given to businesses to help with rent, payroll, clean up, etc. To learn more and to donate, click here.
Staten Island Chamber of Commerce
After contacting the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, ACCE learned that the chamber does not have a fund for Sandy relief and is instead recommending that donations be made to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. To make a donation, visit: http://www.tunneltotowersrun.org. According to the Foundation's website, "All donations will benefit those that have been adversely impacted by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the New York City and New Jersey coastlines."
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, together with the Brooklyn Community Foundation and the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, established the Brooklyn Recovery Fund. This pooled fund is providing support to Brooklyn’s nonprofit organizations working with the communities and individuals most affected by Hurricane Sandy. To learn more and to donate, click here.