Hurricanes force change in travel plans

Hurricanes force change in travel plans

Call it a First World kind of problem.

Rhode Island has been left unscathed by a series of recent natural disasters, but continued hits to major vacation destinations are impacting local residents.

Travel experts have been working the phones hard to change plans after hurricanes destroyed many popular vacation spots and cruise stops in the Caribbean and Florida.

Jamie Perrotti, owner of Detailed Destinations in North Providence and pictured, said changing vacation plans is something she and others are used to, and she’s had to deal with plenty of snowstorms and hurricanes, “but never to this extent.”

So far, said Perrotti, everyone who has needed changes to their vacation plans has been able to accomplish them, after some ironing out of the details.

In one case, clients who were trying to go to the Turks and Caicos Islands had to change their plans because the hotel they were going to isn’t set to open until December, and their trip was in November. American Airlines initially declined to help the couple with a change in flight, she said, but her staff then stepped in and got the airline to waive penalties.

The tourism industry, in general, is good at dealing with disasters, said Perrotti, because those in the field “want people to travel.”

Judy Clappin, owner of Donovan Travel in Woonsocket, said that with her clients, agents have encouraged alternative destinations. There haven’t been many cancellations, she said, but the company has had to reroute many people.

For those with plans to travel to the devastated eastern Caribbean, Clappin said she encourages trips to the western Caribbean or Hawaii.

“A couple of travelers have even decided to go over to Europe instead,” she said.

Hotels and airlines, she noted, have been very cooperative, as have cruise lines, though she said the future of that business following the destruction of many ports remains somewhat murky.

“We haven’t heard what the cruise lines are doing for the future,” she said.

Paula Twidale, executive vice president at Pawtucket-based escorted tour provider Collette, said her company doesn’t do many “sun and fun” trips, so it hasn’t been impacted much by the hurricane devastation. Much of the company’s work has centered on rebooking people coming back to damaged areas like Georgia or Florida from places like Italy or Ireland. Some people have had to be rerouted or booked for a later date.

There’s “a multitude of ways” people can be impacted by disasters when they’re trying to travel, said Twidale, and the goal is to “reroute and protect them.” Collette has had to cancel some Cuba tours and its Southern Charm Tour, which was set to go during Hurricane Irma.

Traveling is inherently a risky business, said Twidale, but companies are equipped to deal with the uncertainty. Over the decades, she said, Collette has dealt with the impacts of volcanoes, wildfires, earthquakes, political instability and terrorism, among many other problems.

– Written by The Valley Breeze staff