Pat Plumb was on her way to the gym early on the morning of Sept. 15, when she received a call on her cell phone.
It was a client who Plumb, a travel consultant at Danville Travel, Inc., in Danville, Calif., an Ensemble agency, had booked on a trip to Los Cabos.
The client and his wife were scheduled to depart two days later for a 25th wedding anniversary getaway to the luxury Capella Pedregal resort. But on Sept. 14, Category 3 Hurricane Odile hit the Mexican resort destination.
Plumb cancelled her workout and headed to the office.
“I had a beautiful trip planned for them with a private dinner in the hotel’s wine cellar,” she said. But the category 3 hurricane caused so much damage throughout Los Cabos that the trip had to be cancelled.
Plumb had booked the Los Cabos trip through Classic Vacations. She called the wholesaler to cancel the booking, which included first-class seats on Alaska Airlines.
“It was very easy for me to contact them,” she said. “They hit the ground running. I got it done in one phone call.
“I had to act quickly when working to cancel without penalties,” she added, noting that the Classic Vacations representative was very helpful.
Plumb’s story is indicative of many agents who booked clients into Los Cabos in late September and early October.
All of these agents acted quickly when Hurricane Odile slammed into the destination on Sept. 15.
Shelley Morse, CTA, owner of Horizon Vacations, an unaffiliated, home-based agency in Burleson, Tex., had a group of six people booked on a Los Cabos vacation Oct. 1 to 5.
She had booked the people in the group — a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, their adult children and their children’s spouses — at the Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas via Funjet Vacations and United Vacations.
The bookings weren’t within the airlines’ refund window, according to Morse.
“But luckily, they bought trip insurance, so they were able to cancel and re-book the trip for the Riviera Maya,” she said, noting that they bought cancel-for-any-reason coverage.
“I love the fact that I have a story to tell to that one client who says they don’t want trip insurance,” she added. “If there is a flight cancellation because of weather, you’re at the airline’s beck and call as far as trip cancellation.”
The clients had been booked on American Airlines from Dallas and United Airlines from Houston.
Wholesalers earn an ‘A’
Working with the wholesalers was also easy, Morse said.
“They were inundated with the same kind of calls, but they handled it very well,” said Morse, a member of the Funjet 500 Club. “They just moved the money over so my clients didn’t have to go through the whole refund process.”
Morse will not recommend the destination in the near future, although some Los Cabos hotels and resorts told Travel Market Report that damage was mostly cosmetic and they anticipated reopening by early October.
“Just because a hotel is open doesn’t mean customers aren’t going to be affected,” she said.
“I don’t want to send clients there and only have one restaurant open. From our standpoint, we can’t send clients to a destination that’s not fully operational.”
Please be upfront
Morse said tourism and hotel officials aren’t always completely honest about these types of situations.
“It would be helpful if someone was unbiased” about the extent of the damage, she said. Morse said she’d like to see a list of all hotels and tourism businesses in Los Cabos that are operational, as well as those that are not.
Once everything is operational again, she “most certainly” would send clients there.
While Plumb said she would not steer clients away from Los Cabos, she wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for everyone. But that has nothing to do with the hurricane, which she acknowledged is rare for that area.
“Cabo has beautiful beaches, but there are only two swimmable beaches,” she explained, adding that most beaches there have a “severe undertow and heavy currents. Okay, say for clients traveling there for golf or deep sea fishing but not a good idea for families with children.
It’s a different story in Texas.
“You wouldn’t believe how popular it’s been this year,” Morse said.
“In the past few years, I’ve had more requests for Cabo than for the Riviera Maya,” she added, attributing the recent jump in popularity to Spirit Airlines’ launch of service to Los Cabos.