As the 2023 hurricane season nears its end on Nov. 30, the travel industry hopes that Hurricane Otis, which thrashed Mexico’s coast near Acapulco last week as a Category 5, will be the last storm of the season.
Travel advisors have long had to prepare their clients for the possibility of major storms during certain seasons. But as abnormal weather patterns push more storms outside of the usual dates, advisors have adjusted the way they discuss hurricane season with clients.
AccuWeather hurricane meteorologist Alex DaSilva said the variation is due to warmer temperatures. This year, for instance, there was an unnamed storm in January, which he said was “very rare to see.”
“The warm sea surface temperatures have enabled storms to form on the outer edges or outer ends of the hurricane season, which can pose a problem for travelers,” DaSilva said, especially those who try to avoid booking Caribbean trips during hurricane season.
That is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, he said. “We’ve seen gradual warming in the oceans, and that just adds more fuel to tropical systems.”
Advisors say that having upfront conversations with clients going to storm-prone areas is key, as is travel insurance. They also try to be realistic.
“The chances that any one client’s chosen destination will be impacted by a major storm is still small,” said Lee Friedman, owner of Jetset World Travel affiliate Mango Tree Travel in Washington.
Friedman’s agency specializes in Caribbean travel for families, and she starts watching the weather about a week before clients travel and talks about pivoting as early as possible if a storm is coming.
“Clients just need to be ready and prepared to know that storms are a possibility, and feel confident that they’ve chosen an advisor who will help them pivot if the need arises,” she said.
Before a trip, she talks to clients about what could happen when vacationing during hurricane season — and there are some pros along with the cons: the possibility of rain, but the benefit of less crowding and lower prices.
She also always discusses travel insurance.
“It’s absolutely critical during this time of year — and not all plans are created equal,” Friedman said, noting that some plans only cover losses once a destination is made unreachable by a storm while others kick in when a storm watch is declared.
Enrico Saltarelli, who owns a Cruise Planners franchise in Largo, Fla., explains to his cruising clients that itineraries can easily be adjusted to avoid hurricanes.
“I like telling people that no captain is going to take a billion-dollar piece of equipment and several thousand souls and get that ship into danger,” he said. “It’s just never going to happen.”
Resorts and theme parks, of course, can’t move. And many are drawn to Walt Disney World in Orlando during hurricane season, especially during the summer months when kids are out of school.
In the event that a hurricane does threaten the Orlando area, as happened last year with Hurricane Ian, Disney will close its theme parks. But such closures have mostly been limited to a single day. For guests staying at a Disney hotel, entertainment is provided in the form of character visits and games.
Greg Antonelle, owner of Windermere, Fla.-based MickeyTravels, said clients rarely bring up concerns about hurricanes. But he said they do offer a silver lining for theme park guests: “After the hurricane, when it’s safe, is one of the best times to be there. Sure, you’re going to get wet, but you’re going to walk onto attractions that you normally wait an hour for just because the park is going to be empty.”
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