SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — “It’s a lot of people coming through our hotels in a very short period of time,” says Vik Patel, owner of Haven Hospitality.
He manages four hotels in San Marcos — all sold out Wednesday night due to hurricane evacuees.
“People are coming with their whole families. A typical room will have four to six people in there. Half of our properties have pets … and so our hotels are fully occupied,” Patel says.
“I wanted to get out early ahead of the traffic,” says Jeralyn Johnson, who arrived from Winnie, Texas on Tuesday.
“I was worried about storm surge at my home. And I have five huge trees in my front yard, so we didn’t know what we were going to come back to,” she says.
He also says they weren’t ready; the pandemic and resulting business loss had forced them to scale down staff.
“This has been a glimmer of hope, but at the same time, we weren’t ready, our staff wasn’t ready. We were really staffing down, so our staff is having to work over time… So they’re kind of getting rundown and tired,” Patel says.
San Marcos’ tourism bureau says hotels across the city were booked Wednesday night.
“Wednesday night, hotels were at full capacity of available rooms. Due to the devasting effects the crisis has had on our travel industry, several hotels are not fully staffed; therefore could not open their hotels to the pre-crisis full capacity.”Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez, San Marcos Director of Destination Services
A spokesperson for the City of Buda confirms all its hotels were also at full capacity.
A spokesperson for the City of Kyle did not have that information.
Patel says a wave of evacuees are already checking out as Hurricane Laura moves inland, but he’s working with FEMA and the city of Austin to place others who need to stay a little longer.
“We’re seeing that it’s going to be pretty busy today. Tomorrow is also going to be pretty busy, so we expect this to go on at least until Monday, and then we’ll see what the damage is,” he says.
As for her sixth hurricane evacuation, Johnson says she’s glad it was a mild one.
“I had the computer up listening to the news back at home and listening to a station here and the weather channel,” she says.
According to her energy provider, Johnson’s home still has power so she plans to head back Friday.
“If we get back, and I lose power, I’ll be headed back,” she says.
Central Texas officials say those who arrived to Circuit of the Americas by bus are scheduled to return home Friday morning.
They want all evacuees — even those who drove on their own — to register their whole party with a hotel staff, government official or the Red Cross.
That proof will be required when those individuals — and the city — applies for disaster reimbursement.
COVID-19 safety precautions
Patel says managing safety has been difficult with so many guests.
“The struggle we’re finding is that a lot of customers come in, and they’re just not used to staying at a hotel during COVID, because, you know, they’ve all been staying at their homes … and they’re not wearing their masks.”
Patel says all his staff are wearing masks and properties have sanitizing stations.
“We just ask our customers also to kind of work with us and follow procedure, and we’ll get through this,” he says.