The resiliency of the hospitality industry has been put to the test in recent months -- and it has passed. A string of tragedies provided a window for the best of humanity to shine through the worst of times.
I first learned of the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas when I logged onto Facebook early the next morning and saw that my friend Mike Dominguez, chief sales officer for MGM Resorts, marked himself "safe" in a "Violent Incident in Las Vegas, Nevada."
Gratitude quickly rose from the trauma. "The outpouring of support from the meetings community has been overwhelming," Mike said at the time. "To know you are not alone as a destination in your healing process is comforting beyond words."
A week later, as IMEX America began in a still shell-shocked Vegas, Northern California was burning. Consultant David Kliman abruptly left the event; his neighborhood in Sonoma County had to be evacuated overnight, with 15 minutes notice. His husband and dog had survived a harrowing drive to safety. There, too, the outpouring of human kindness was overwhelming, Kliman says. Among many examples: Both major hospitals in the area had to be evacuated, and locals were showing up in their cars to help transport patients to a safe location.
Ultimately, Kliman and family returned to a home they didn't expect to see again. Fire crews had left a note of thanks, explaining that they had camped out on his deck furniture and used his electricity and water. "I was so happy to hear that. I wish they had slept in my bed!" he told me. "It's unbelievable that we walked away whole. We count ourselves lucky."
As for Kliman's beloved Wine Country, "The damage is unprecedented, but it's important to realize that 90 percent of Sonoma and Napa were untouched," he notes. "About a dozen wineries were heavily impacted or destroyed, but the area has more than 600 wineries.
"I don't want to discount the damage," Kliman added, "but the fire hasn't stopped tourism. It's a beautiful morning in Sonoma. The air is clear. I was in Healdsburg yesterday on the plaza, and the stores were full, the restaurants were full, and a festival was going on to thank the first responders. People need to see that Sonoma and Napa are on their feet and rebounding -- and will be here forever."