BRANSON, Missouri—Cleanup in the country music resort town of Branson, Missouri, is well underway after a tornado ripped through the town early Wednesday. However, hoteliers said the town will be in good shape for the beginning of tourism season later this month.
The tornado had winds of 120 mph to 130 mph and was 400 yards wide, according to the National Weather Service. Fortunately for Branson, the tornado struck mostly in a commercial area, leaving few residents displaced and the 170 hotels mostly intact. Unfortunately for Branson-based Myer Hotels, part of the roof was lifted off its Best Western Center Pointe Inn and many windows were broken out.
Staff at the 164-room Best Western acted swiftly in the dark of the night to get guests transferred to sister properties nearby, said Chris Myer, VP of marketing for the company that owns and operates six hotels in Branson.
“Our staff did an awesome job. They got people into the hallway,” Myer said. “After the storm passed, we were able to get the people moved to another one of our hotels. At the end of the day the guests were safe, and that’s what you want.”
Because it was dark—the tornado touched down in Branson approximately 1:30 a.m.—staff at the Best Western was unable to get a good sense of the damage that was caused. Moving the guests was more precautionary, Myer said.
“When it’s dark out, you don’t know how safe or unsafe the building is. Guests’ cars windows were knocked out or even totaled,” he said.
Staff shuttled guests back and forth from the Best Western the following morning to retrieve items they left behind.
Branson is slow this time of the year, with hotel occupancy in January reported to STR at just 14.7%. But entertainers and the majority of tourists begin arriving in late March, said Gail Myer, VP of Operations for Myer Hotels and who also serves as president of the Missouri Hotel & Lodging Association. Last year, hotel occupancy in Branson jumped from 18.1% in February to 32.5% in March and eventually peaked at 60.5% in July, according to data from STR, parent company of HotelNewsNow.com.
“The reality is because Branson is such a larger market, this particular event did probably suspend the operations at a few hotels,” Gail said. “But we made (cleanup) progress (Wednesday), and it hasn’t changed Branson’s ability to serve folks.”
“Probably our biggest concern is the media reports when they show pictures of the devastation,” Chris added. “There are few buildings that have been harmed and a lot of the major attractions went untouched. The show will go on.”