Among the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy since October 29, displaced residents and the onslaught of disaster relief workers to the area have had to face another difficulty – finding a hotel room.
Sandy has led to full hotels in the Shore area and beyond as FEMA officials, insurance adjusters, utility crews, home remediation specialists and those displaced from their homes have made finding a room in Monmouth and Ocean Counties very difficult, despite the tourism season being long finished.
“We are at 100 percent right now and closed to new reservations until January,” said Patricia Brecka, manager at the Comfort Inn on Route 37.
Dana Lancellotti, director of sales at the Ramada on Route 9, noted the hotel is referring reservations to Atlantic and Burlington County. “We are full to the max,” she said, noting that the hotel, which is part of Hotels Unlimited, has a waiting list and the group's eight other New Jersey hotels in the group are in a similar situation.
Comfort Inn has had to turn down reservations and cancel some of the existing reservations, Brecka said. Approximately 12 to 15 rooms at the hotel are providing shelter for area residents who lost their homes and the remainder of rooms are filled with contractors from as far away as Illinois and Texas, Brecka said.
A search for hotel rooms in Toms River on travel site Priceline.com Tuesday shows only five hotels with available rooms. Two of the rooms are in Seaside Heights, which has been under a mandatory evacuation since Sandy struck. The others are in Belmar and Spring Lake. Kayak.com has brought up several hotels in a Toms River search, but phone calls verified that there are no rooms available.
Clarion Hotel & Conference Center on Route 37 has only sporadic openings between now and December, an employee said.
Lancellotti said the Ramada was 78 percent occupied last November, which is supported by catering and government business and is not as tourism-driven as other area hotels. Comfort Inn typically has a November through January occupancy rate between 60-65 percent, Brecka said.
Shortly after the storm’s onset, Comfort Inn’s guests were without power, heat and hot water for a few days, Brecka said.
“We had not one complaint,” she said. “Everyone was happy to have a roof overhead.”