Hotels ordered to make room for first responders as many LSU fans cancel reservations
When LSU plays football in Death Valley, fans from near and far come in droves. When hurricanes hit the state, residents from New Orleans and parishes further south seek shelter in Baton Rouge.
First responders and utility workers also come from all directions to get utilities back up and running. And they all need lodging.
However, unlike with Hurricane Gustav four years ago, many Baton Rouge hotel managers say they are not being affected by Isaac, even though Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order Thursday calling for all hotels and motels to prioritize giving shelter to first responders and storm restoration personnel. That's because a lot of fan reservations were already canceled.
"It's a wash," says Ralph Ney, general manager at Embassy Suites and treasurer of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association. Compounded by traveling issues—Interstate 10 remains closed at LaPlace—Ney surmises many fans have opted to stay home or tend to the damage their own homes or businesses underwent during the storm. LSU's opponent, North Texas, also doesn't make for can't-miss action. And not many of that school's fans are coming to cheer on their team here.
"I don't think they travel that well," Ney says.
Gary Jupiter, general manager at Springhill Suites and president of the Baton Rouge Lodging Association, says his hotel has been proactive by calling those who have reservations and asking if they're still coming. If not, the room is made available to first responders and those still seeking shelter.
"Right now, our holding pattern is to make sure we have room for people still here," Jupiter says.
Al Schof, director of sales at the Hyatt Place, says about 80 rooms are occupied by first responders. Schof also says a lot of fans have canceled reservations and that now the Hyatt is extending the stay for many first responders in certain rooms that were previously reserved.
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