Galveston Hotels Accused of Welcoming Tourists Over FEMA Vouchers

By: KHOU's Kevin Reece Email
By: KHOU's Kevin Reece Email

Many Galveston residents are still trying to get back on their feet following Hurricane Ike. And now, some are claiming that the Island's hotels are favoring tourists over those with FEMA vouchers.

Tina is one of the 341 people still living at the Red Cross Tent shelter on the grounds of Galveston's Alamo Elementary School. She's been trying to get out of the shelter and into a FEMA approved Galveston hotel, but has been finding that it's not an easy endeavor.

"If you walk up to a hotel with cash or credit, you can get in. But if you walk up to a hotel and tell them you have FEMA, you're not going to get a room," said Tina.

Tina claims she's hit a road block. According to her, hotels in the area are not willing to bear the cost and burden of additional evacuees and take government reimbursement for the rooms.

"I'm not sure what the count is at the moment of what is open, but I know it is a large number and more are being opened every day," said RoShelle Gaskins, Public Relations Manager of the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Gaskins explained part of the problem is that some of Galveston's hotels are already filled with FEMA reimbursed evacuees. Other hotels are returning to fulltime tourism clients, and ramping up for conventions and weddings that were already booked. She said that hotels are under no legal obligation to take evacuees, but as a group they are trying to share the load.

"Depending how many rooms they have available, some are only providing FEMA to their employees and giving them a place to stay. Others, such as the Hawthorne Suites, are doing 100% FEMA," said Gaskins.

But for evacuees like Tina, the problem is compounded by the fact that the tent city is scheduled to close in six days, and finding a hotel is getting more difficult.

"They said that they were full. We do support FEMA, but we don't have any rooms right now for FEMA," said Tina.

Tina is counting on a room to help her recover, but Galveston is counting on booking rooms for tax revenue, to help the city recover.

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