Lissette Landestoy – One Year On From Hurricane Maria
This post is part of a series reflecting on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico. It recognizes contributions of Hilton Team Members in recovery efforts, the importance of travel and tourism to Puerto Rico, and the optimism that envelopes the island today #CoverTheProgress
Born in New York, Hilton Supply Management team member Lissette Landestoy has lived in Puerto Rico since she was 21 years old when she quickly fell in love with the nature, the people and the year-round warm weather. Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, Lissette left her family in Puerto Rico to travel between Hilton’s nine hotels on the island to help the team in whatever way she could. Lissette quickly realized she could put her supply management skills to use, developing lists of the most essential items needed and becoming point person for managing a barge of relief items sent from the mainland.
In this voluntary position, Lissette managed the process of receiving, documenting, sorting and distributing seven container loads full of emergency relief supplies. She also signed up volunteers to help assemble 3,200 care kits for Hilton team members and their families who lost their homes and possessions. Lissette was honored with the highest internal Hilton recognition, a CEO Light & Warmth award for her teamwork and contributions following the hurricanes.
We spoke with Lissette about her experiences one year later:
Lissette, THANK YOU for your incredible efforts. We’ve heard that your positive personality never wavered. When did you know that you wanted to help?
Unfortunately I’ve experienced a number of natural disasters and I have always felt that I have a responsibility to rise to the occasion. Over the 25 years that I’ve worked in procurement I’ve learned to proactively plan for an emergency. That said, no one could have anticipated or prepared for a Category 5 Hurricane.
It must have been an overwhelming task, how did you know how you could best contribute to recovery efforts?
I am in charge of supply management for Hilton’s Caribbean and Latina American properties. I support our hotels with all of their procurement needs, which includes everything from partnerships with grocery suppliers so our hotels can get the food they need for their restaurants, to finding local partners for services such as laundry. My expertise in this area certainly helped though our constant focus was prioritizing our guests’ and team members’ needs each and every day.
What are some of your strongest memories of this emotional time?
One of my most impactful memories is the reaction we received when distributing first response items – people would hug me just for giving them water. It really impacted me how such simple items are so vital for survival.
It was very gratifying to be able to unite all of the hotel managers from our properties in Puerto Rico to work together to support our guests and team members. It was a very collaborative time, the coordination and support that Hilton’s Caribbean and Latin America Regional Teams provided was vital and the visit from Hilton’s CEO Chris Nassetta was incredibly uplifting for the team.
How are you doing now that it’s one year later?
The island is recuperating and we are ready to welcome tourists and guests to most of our hotels. On a personal level the experience has reminded me to enjoy life to its full potential each and every day. I know my team and I are stronger and more resilient.
Has your relationship with other Hilton Team Members and the community changed?
Definitely, they have seen my personal side and know more about my family whereas previously many only knew me professionally. We have all seen how much impact we can make on our communities when we work together, regardless of our specific roles.
How are you feeling about the future?
We are ready and eager to welcome guests at many of our restored and renovated hotels! We are grateful for the first responders, companies and agencies that have been on the island working hard to reestablish infrastructure.
What’s one thing you think tourists should do in Puerto Rico that really captures the essence of the country?
Enjoy the natural beauty Puerto Rico has to offer – beaches, mountains, the colonial city of San Juan and the local flavors. This is why I have been living on the ‘Island of Enchantment’ for close to 30 years!
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