‘I’m going to make sure the community gets its money back’: E-commerce company aims to help shuttered hotels return
A Florida online retailer is hoping to make a difference in the communities that lost out on the $1.2 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief by bringing back some of the hotel shutters it sold to customers.
The company, which is based in St. Petersburg, plans to sell up to 100 hotel shuttles to homeowners in a pilot program, a move it hopes will help rekindle the hotel industry.
The $1 billion in relief money was meant to be spent on rebuilding roads and infrastructure in areas hit hardest by the storm, but most was spent on paying for hurricane-related costs like repairs to the levees that held back the storm’s flow.
In the past, the company has offered a discount for people with credit cards or other forms of insurance.
In an email Tuesday, the firm said it would donate its surplus shuttled hotel shutts to homeowners.
“We have always been upfront about our intention to donate any and all surplus hotel shut tings that we sell to homeowners to help them rebuild their homes,” said David Zolotowsky, CEO of Hotel-Vitality.
“It was an important part of Hurricane Harvey and a tremendous boon to the local economy.”
Zolothowsky added that he hopes the donation will help bring some closure to the city’s downtown, which has seen a sharp decline in hotel occupancy as more than 3,000 hotels closed since the storm hit.
In addition to providing the shuttling service, the service is intended to make room for people who want to rent out their rooms for more than six months.
Zolowitz also plans to help homeowners buy their homes with the money donated by the company.
The program is a pilot project that will run through the end of the month.
The first 100 homes it will be able to help with will be offered at $1,000 per house for a period of up to six months, Zolithowsky said.
The offer will be available to people who bought their homes in the greater Tampa Bay area, he added.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday that Zolathowsky said the company will be paying homeowners $50 per year for their property, which he described as an interim rental.
Zoltowowsky said he was not sure how many homes would be available, but the firm plans to give away about half of them, he said.
He said he expects to announce more details about the pilot project in the coming days.
The St. Pete store will sell the shutters to homeowners at a cost of $150 per home, Zoltowitz said.
Zoilotowsky said that he expects about 2,000 homes to be eligible for the program.
Zilothowsky said in an interview with The Tampa Tribune that the pilot program is meant to help rebuild the hotels that were lost in the storm.
He added that the company had received some of its surplus hotel rooms through donations, and said it was hoping to help the city get more of the money that was meant for rebuilding.
The town of Tampa was hit hard by Hurricane Irma, with more than 30 percent of the city flooded.
Zoliaowsky said Hotel-Valley is currently working with the city to ensure the shuttered properties are used in an orderly fashion.
The shuttings will be sold through the hotel company’s Tampa office, which Zoloths is currently serving as an adviser, he told the Tampa Tribune.
Zolezzi said that the first 200 properties it will have available for the pilot will be given away to homeowners and residents in St Petersburg.
Zolisow said the offer will run for about six months with the intention of bringing the entire program to the community.
Zulotowsky did not immediately respond to a request for comment.