JACKSONVILLE, Fl - The storm surge from Hurricane Irma not only destroyed docks and damaged homes on the First Coast, but it caused severe flooding downtown, which crippled Jacksonville's Riverfront Hyatt Regency.
Hyatt management expects to resume limited operations and welcome guests back to the hotel on Monday, October 30.
"The greatest impact is the convenience of the Hyatt and its 950 rooms," said Paul Astleford, the CEO of Visit Jacksonville.
Astleford said his office is working with the Hyatt to ease the impact of its closing, especially because it will be closed during the big Florida-Georgia game. It is known to be a place for people to stay during the big weekend.
"Throughout this month, there were over 13 groups and conventions," he said. "We had to help them find new locations."
He said others have decided to remove Jacksonville from their itinerary completely.
"Some of them were citywide conventions where, without the Hyatt, they could not come here and be in one location, so some of those are going to other cities," Astleford said.
On the immediate horizon is the annual football game between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia.
Astleford said his office and the Hyatt have already reached out to those who were registered.
"There's a thing called compression and it pushes the business out to other hotels," he said.
He said Duval County has 18,000 additional hotel rooms for guests coming in for the big game, and they will be used.
"A lot of select service hotels which are a less costly, but they might be further away," he said..
He expects that will have a positive impact on transportation services like cabs and Uber or Lyft drivers.
The timing of the Hyatt's closing is bad, but Astleford said it won't stop what has been nicknamed "the world's largest outdoor cocktail party."
"I believe the events downtown are still going to do well as they always do with this game," he said.
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