P.E.I. sun seekers rethink travel plans in wake of Hurricane Irma
P.E.I. travel agents says they’re getting plenty of questions from sun seekers wondering just where and when they should book trips in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
But Andrea Carr-McNeill, the marketing director at The Travel Store in Charlottetown, says until agents have a better sense of the extent of the damage at popular Caribbean resorts, those are difficult questions to answer.
“There are a couple of resorts we’re watching closely right now, because we do have a lot of Islanders that have favourite resorts, which have been damaged,” Carr-McNeill said.
“So we’re waiting to see, what is the extent? The tour operators need to go in and do assessments to see what they’re comfortable selling. As we move along in the next days and weeks, we’ll get a better sense of where we are, and people will feel better about booking vacations.”
The Cuban island Cayo Coco, a top winter destination for P.E.I. travellers, was hit especially hard last week, Carr-McNeill said.
She said travel agents are being advised it will be at least November before the island’s airport will be open to tourists again.
“That’s one of the favourite spots for Islanders to go, so we’ll see a big change there,” she said. “Hopefully people will make other choices. I think once we come into the high season, there’ll still be lots of places and things to do. We’ll be very confident in what we sell, and cautious on resorts that aren’t quite ready. We won’t book people there.”
‘You’ve been there yourself, and you know how hard these people work and how much pride they take in the product they give to you on vacation.’
– Andrea Carr-McNeill
Last week’s hurricane damage also has Islanders who’ve booked cruises worried about their travel plans.
Greg McQuaid is booked to head out on an eastern Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend in December.
“We saw a video of the damage in Saint Martin, where we’re supposed to stop,” McQuaid said. “There were ships thrown on top of each other, and the port looked so bad. That’s when we started to worry.”
Some cruise lines have started changing their ports of call for the next few months, scheduling stops at Caribbean islands that weren’t hit hard by Irma.
‘A getaway is a getaway’
McQuaid said at this point, his cruise schedule hasn’t changed, though his booking agent informed him it likely will.
“That’s fine. A getaway is a getaway,” he said. “I just feel terrible for the people living down there. It’ll take a long time for these places to recover.”
Carr-McNeill said that reality is front of mind with her, as well.
“It really tugs at the heart string,” she said. “You’ve been there yourself, and you know how hard these people work and how much pride they take in the product they give to you on vacation.”