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Hotel awards recognise exceptional earthquake efforts

Earthquake Hotel awards recognise exceptional earthquake effortsOutstanding efforts to care for distressed visitors to Christchurch in the aftermath of the city’s earthquakes have earned special acknowledgement for two hotel executives.

Two special awards were presented at the New Zealand Hotel Industry Awards to recognise the efforts of Scott Wallace, Director of Operations New Zealand for Millennium Hotels and Resorts, and Tim Dearsley, General Manager of All Seasons Christchurch.

The Awards were presented at the New Zealand Hotel Industry Conference dinner in Auckland last night, co-hosted by Horwath HTL and Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA).

In the immediate aftermath of the September 2010 quake Mr Wallace’s quick thinking ensured the safe relocation of guests from the badly damaged Copthorne Durham St to the Millennium Hotel. He led a procession of hotel guests on an early morning walk through the city, where he organised breakfast for them, as well as for other ‘refugees’ from neighbouring damaged hotels.

Immediately after the 22 February 2012 earthquake, Mr Wallace got the attention of a large number of people and moved them away from the Press building in Cathedral Square just moments before it collapsed, probably saving many lives.

He then took the lead in organising Christchurch’s hotel sector to organise the evacuation of guests, care for staff, accommodate rescue workers and provide support for homeless Christchurch residents. This included co-ordinating available staff and resources from closed and damaged hotels to be redistributed to the hotels that were still operating.

“Given that these hotels were understandably stretched, Scott was able to assign staff from the damaged hotels to work at competitor hotels doing whatever needed to be done – even to allocating General Managers to cleaning rooms so the guests could be given the best possible care,” says Awards judging panel member and co-host, Stephen Hamilton, Director of Horwath HTL.

Mr Wallace also organised ‘rescue’ missions into the Red Zone to recover bedding and food supplies for use at aid centres, and later helped many hotel staff made redundant as a result of the earthquakes to find new positions in hotels around the country.

Meanwhile Mr Dearsley has led clean-up and recovery work for the hospitality sector, including overseeing the return of around 1000 pieces of abandoned luggage to owners in 37 countries.

Following the February 2011 earthquake, Mr Dearsley was seconded to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) as Hospitality Industry Liaison and Tourism Advisor.

As well as retrieving a large amount of personal belongings from damaged hotels, he also had the unpleasant task of co-ordinating the removal of tonnes of rotting food from CBD hotels and restaurants.

“There has been a wonderful response from the people who received their personal belongings back – many never expected to see them again. This effort has reinforced New Zealand’s international reputation as a great host that cares for its visitors,” Mr Hamilton says.

“These two exceptional hoteliers showed outstanding support for their staff, guests and the wider hotel sector, and we are pleased to honour their efforts with these special awards.”

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