In 2012, a particularly fierce Atlantic hurricane season unleashed Irene on the southern U.S. and the devastating Sandy on the northeast. Even stronger storms were forecast for 2013.
But so far during this year’s hurricane season a major storm has yet to seriously impact U.S. travelers, and there has been little disruption to the operations of major cruise lines and airlines.
“We’ve had a lot of rain this year, but no storms affected cruising at all throughout the summer,” said Lisa Silvestri, CTC, ETC, owner of Sarasota, Fla.-based Silvestri Travel, a NEST member. “I never had any clients bat an eye or worry about what was going to happen this year.”
Remember last year?
According to the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center, 10 tropical cyclones were upgraded to hurricane status in 2012. So far this year, with less than two months left in the Atlantic hurricane season, just two storms have reached hurricane status.
In comparison, the Atlantic suffered six hurricanes in 2011, 12 in 2010 and three in 2009. Although two Carnival vessels were forced to slightly revise their itineraries due to Tropical Storm Karen, the storm did not disrupt and sailings.
“It’s been a non-event,” said Stephanie Turner, CTC, president of Brentwood Travel, an Ensemble agency in St. Louis.
“We do a big Mexico business – it’s our largest market – and when people get nervous about the weather it affects their decision to travel in the fall of the year.”
2004: worst year in memory
Agents say a combination of meteorological luck and deals from the cruise lines have helped to boost sales.
“We’ve been pretty lucky the last few years,” said Candie Steinman, owner of a CruiseOne agency in Fort Myers, Fla. “Traditionally people had stayed away from cruising in this timeframe [due to weather concerns].”
Agents said 2004 was the worst year in memory when it came to the impact of storms on summer and fall travel.
Barraged by storms
“In 2004, we had 24 named storms with seven that crisscrossed Florida the whole summer,” said Silvestri. “It was really tough trying to find windows of opportunity where there wasn’t one or two main storms coming our way.”
Bookings this year are strong, despite memories of a tough hurricane season last year.
“The past few years I’ve seen an increase in my fall bookings, probably more lately because the weather has been good,” said Steinman. “We’ve had a lot of people booking for next year; the calls are coming in faster than ever.”
Insurance is still key
Travel insurance remains vital to clients’ peace of mind.
“I always recommend insurance; that’s the key, so that clients are protected,” said Silvestri. “It’s always an easier sell for the cruise, because the ships move [and itineraries can be disrupted].”
For budget cruises, however, it can be tough to convince clients to spend extra on insurance.
“There are a lot of good deals in the fall and for people who are value-conscious, it’s a great time to get away,” said Turner. “But the people who travel in value season don’t seem to want to spend extra on insurance, though we encourage them. You have to make them take it.”
And don’t forget that weather disruptions in the U.S. can have a serious ripple effect on global travel.
“I had several people going on a river cruise during Sandy, and they all got out of the country right before the storm hit, but it did cause delays and problems with lost luggage,” said Steinman.
“It was strange that the storm affected river cruising in Europe, but it was more of an airline issue than the actual cancellation of a cruise.”