My heart goes out to the people of Japan as they try to cope with the terrifying impact of the recent earthquake and tsunami. I am following the news closely and hope the damage to the nuclear reactors can be contained. Some reports coming into me indicate no signs of panic or hysteria in Tokyo, but personal and business activities are a bit limited by restrictions on power supply and damage to infrastructure. Resolve appears to remain steadfast.
When you stop to consider the devastating implications of this event and others like it, including the recent earthquake in New Zealand, floods in Queensland, and bloody revolutions in the Middle East and Africa, it causes one to pause, reflect and put more manageable problems into perspective.
I have sent multiple emails to hoteliers in Japan to better understand their stories and realities — both personally and professionally.
I want to share one email received overnight from Marcel van Aelst, who is president and general manager of the Hotel Okura Amsterdam, as well as representative director and president of JAL Hotels Co., Tokyo, which is now owned by Okura Hotels Resorts. Marcel is traveling between Amsterdam and Tokyo quite often these days and just arrived back in Tokyo from the Berlin conferences last Thursday afternoon for a Friday morning board of directors meeting of Hotel Okura Co. Ltd. Here is his account of what he experienced next and how his company has reacted since. Of course, this is a fluid situation, and this is what he told me as of Tuesday morning in Japan:
"In the afternoon (Friday) I left for the JAL Hotels Corp. office. I was "welcomed" by the worst earthquake I ever experienced. You know I lived in San Francisco for five years, as well. My office is on the 13th floor, and it was not a pretty feeling.
“我们的大仓、日航国际和日航城市酒店并未受到严重的破坏，只是一些酒店由于电力和水供应短缺而被迫歇业，另外一些则只是关闭了受损区域的营业场所，但总的本说全部幸免于难。即使是在仙台的日航城市酒店也从地震中得以幸免并会很快重新开业。 我们目前遇到电力供应短缺的问题但同时也正逐步得到解决。 值得关注的是，在距海边仅20公里的城市仙台，你可以从电视清楚看到海啸侵袭的画面。”
"Our Okura, Nikko and JALCity hotels came out of it without major damage. Some hotels had to close down because of electrical and/or water-supply failure, others closed damaged areas, but all in all we survived. Even our JALCity hotel in Sendai managed to survive the earthquake and will soon be reopened. We had some power supply problems but that has, in the meantime, been solved. Please note the city of Sendai is 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the coast. The images you see on TV are of suburbs of Sendai city that were hit by the tsunami.
"In Tokyo there is relative little serious damage other than a collapsed ceiling in a theater. We have no reports of guests or staff that were injured.
"Today and yesterday several of the trains stopped operating (energy savings). Some 25 to 30 staff members could not make it to the office. We had one employee who came by bike from Yokohama to Tokyo. That is typically Japanese dedication. Also, in the hotels several staff members could not reach their workplace.