Hotels rooms are nearly sold out in Columbia and the Midlands in the wake of evacuations from Hurricane Florence. But a few are available if you’re willing to work the phone.
Hotel occupancy is fluid in the Capital City because of the uncertainty of Saturday’’s football game between the University of South Carolina and Marshall University.
“We sold out once, then rooms opened up,” said Andrew Lucas, general manager of the Inn at USC. “Every night we have rooms opening up because of that.”
The sooner the USC Athletics Department makes a decision, the clearer the picture will get for evacuees, he said.
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“We would love to know what’s going to happen,” said Lucas, whose hotel is affiliated with USC but is operated by the Wyndam Hotels group. “But (administrators) don’t know what the weather is going to be, so they can’t make that call yet.”
Two years ago, prior to Hurricane Matthew, USC officials decided on Thursday to delay a game against Georgia by one day to Sunday. That Thursday scenario could repeat itself as the Thundering Herd is set leave Huntington, West Virginia, on Friday.
Florence is expected to hit somewhere on the coast of the Carolinas — most likely the Wilmington, N.C., area — on
Davdi Erbacher, director of sales for the Hyatt Place Downtown Columbia, said it is sold out through the weekend, but that could change.
“We’re turning a lot of people away because of football,” he said. “We called everyone on our arrival list and they’re all waiting to hear about the game.”
Erbacher said the Hyatt plans to offer full refunds to any football fans who want to pull out, so more rooms can be freed up for evacuees.
“But people so far have been hesitant,” he said.
Also soaking up rooms in the next two or three days are emergency workers.
Matt Lew, general manager of the Embassy Suites Greystone, said 120 of the property’s 218 rooms are blocked off for Duke Power and FEMA workers.
Columbia is centrally located “so they can maneuver around the states of North and South Carolina for assistance.”
John Durst, president and CEO of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, said a good alternative for rooms might be Augusta, Ga., or destinations south.
“Beaufort County, having been taken off the mandatory evacuation list ... opened up the hotels and motels and restaurants” there, he said. “Maybe Beaufort is a place for them to go.”
But Lucas urged those on the move to not depend on online bookings, particularly third party websites like Priceline or Kayak. “Pick up the phone and call,” he said.
“You would hate to loose a reservation because it got lost in Website Land,” he said.