In July, Gabriel Garza took on a new role as president of the MPI Houston Area Chapter. In the August issue of The Meeting Professional, he shared insight into the meeting and event industry offerings of his beloved city—the fourth-largest in the United States. On Aug. 25, Hurricane Harvey began an unrelenting attack on southeast Texas, at first with severe winds and then, even more devastatingly, days of soaking rains the likes of which no one can recall experiencing. The total anticipated rain from the storm is expected to match or exceed the rainfall that Houston sees in an entire year—all in a week.
We checked in with Gabriel Garza, complex account director, group sales for The Westin Galleria Houston and The Westin Oaks Houston at the Galleria, to see how he’s doing in this chaotic and dangerous situation. He took some time to share his story with us and his global meeting industry family.
Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I certainly appreciate the concern from my MPI family.
My wife and I were talking last night and I told her, I am just mentally drained, and that perfectly states my feelings right now.
Thankfully, we are safe. Our street is flooded and we are stuck but no water has entered our home. This is not the case for many family friends we know. We live in the south side of Houston in the city of Manvel, which is in an area where some of the heaviest rain and flooding occurred (not far from Dickinson and Friendswood, Texas). We know many family friends and individuals who have had to evacuate their homes and/or who have been rescued by boat or helicopter. The worse part of all this is feeling helpless… not being able to lend a hand to friends and community members.
I work at The Westin Galleria Houston & Westin Oaks Houston at the Galleria, connected to the Houston Galleria Mall. Our hotel did not suffer any damage or flooding and is open for business to welcome any evacuees and/or disaster relief teams. Mind you, our hotel is operating with limited staff with many of our team members who have been there since Thursday of last week. Appreciation does not describe how thankful we are to have them tending to our in-house guests.
We have had a few group cancellations due to the inability to get to Houston but minimal. Our sales team is working on a number of opportunities as we hope to be home to disaster relief teams in the coming weeks as we begin to rebuild this great city.
I have communicated to Holly Dotson at MPI Global as we are hoping to establish a disaster relief fund on behalf of our chapter in partnership with the other Texas chapters. I am fortunate to have received emails from other MPI presidents around the U.S. who are ready to assist in our efforts.
In the words of JJ Watt [defensive end for the Houston Texans football team], “Houston’s a great city. We’re going to come out of this stronger than ever.”