As Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated parts of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean, killing more than 100 people, members of the trade show and events industry united to assist victims and aid in the rebuilding process. Many convention centers, including the Houston Convention Center (HCC), George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC), Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, and Austin Convention Center were converted into makeshift emergency shelters, while Travis County Expo Center and Ford Park Entertainment Complex were used to shelter displaced pets and livestock. In Florida, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) served as a hub for search-and-rescue operations, housing equipment for the recovery effort.
Four events slated to be held at the HCC were cancelled, along with two shows at the GRBCC. And for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Miami International Auto Show, held annually at the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC), was cancelled.Meanwhile, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show, which was to take place at the OCCC, was postponed, and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair Miami show was moved due to damage at the MBCC. Thankfully, most venues were quick to recover. Still, tens of thousands have been displaced, and hundreds of
billions of dollars in damages have been sustained, prompting many to help out in any way they can.
For example, more than 100,000 individual donors have contributed nearly $80 million to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Members of the trade show and events industry are doing their part as well. The Professional Convention Management Association and its PCMA Education Foundation began an Industry Relief Fund, with the goal of raising more than $35,000 to help assist members of the meetings and events industry who have been impacted by the recent natural disasters. The fund raised $4,925 in its first day, and both PCMA and its Education Foundation have pledged to match donations up to $25,000 each, adding another $50,000 to the cause. Similarly, attendees at the Pack Expo Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging Expo were encouraged to donate to the relief effort in the event's central lobby and at a benefit concert for the organization's charitable foundation.
Countless other companies in the face-to-face marketing industry also stepped up to help, including Fern Exposition Services LLC, which launched an initiative to collect baby formula, diapers, bottled water, and other essentials at its locations throughout the United States. Advantage Trailer deployed customized trailers to serve as makeshift laundromats for victims of Hurricane Harvey. And EXHIBITOR's own senior writer Linda Armstrong donated her time rescuing animals from a shelter in Rockport, TX, and helping to gut flooded homes with the Cajun Army.
Sometimes tragedies bring us closer together, remind us of what's most important, and help us realize that even though we may not see it, we are surrounded by communities of selfless people. I shouldn't be surprised by the charitable spirit of trade show pros, who are notorious for helping neighboring exhibitors overcome whatever show-floor snafus they encounter. But I'm immensely proud to see members of our industry banding together to give of their time and money to make an impact amid the devastation.
On that note, I ask you to join me and members of our industry as we help these areas get back on their feet – and back to business as usual. Because long after news stations stop their coverage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency departs, and the perceived urgency to assist dies down, there will still be work to do and lives to rebuild.