Disney World, climate change, and your travel agency
“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
— Mark Twain
As a travel agent and writer I have a special interest in the many attractions of central Florida, where I recently spent almost a month familiarizing myself with the latest developments.
New Fantasyland, now complete, is packing them in at Magic Kingdom and Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival is better than ever. I can also confidently report that the new Harry Potter expansion at Universal Orlando Resort is an unqualified success. The same can be said of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal’s first moderately priced resort hotel. The place looks spectacular and the food, while fast, is just fine. Based on my own observations and the feedback I received from others, they have beaten Disney at the “value” game. With a fifth hotel, the Sapphire Falls Resort, coming online in 2016, the outlook for Universal Orlando vacation packages looks rosy.
At least in the short term.
You see, I want to talk about the weather. This September, Orlando’s rainfall was 72% above “normal,” a term anyone familiar with Florida weather will take with a grain of salt. But still. I took to asking every local I met if the afternoon thunderstorms for which the area is famous were starting earlier, lasting longer, and getting more intense. The answer I got was an emphatic “Yes!”
Now don’t get me wrong. Disney World is pretty magical even in the rain. There’s a lot to do under cover and if you don’t mind slogging through a downpour it can seem like you have the park to yourself. But when the skies open at 2pm and a torrential rain lasts well into the evening . . . well, it’s almost enough to make you think there just might be something to this whole “climate change” business.
I for one, now urge Disney-bound vacationers to seriously reconsider visiting during rainy season. Unfortunately, Orlando’s rainy season, roughly June through September, is precisely the time when families can get away. I’ve laughingly suggested that I should ask those who don’t take my advice to sign a waiver. Maybe in a few years it won’t be a laughing matter. If the doomsayers are correct, portions of I-95 in Georgia, a major artery into Florida, could be flooded much of the year.
Other touristed parts of the “Sunshine State” are affected as well. At certain times of the year, high tide in Miami has sea water bubbling out of storm drains forcing pedestrians in South Beach to wade through ankle deep water. When will the busy ports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Canaveral be affected? And, more recently, a spate of reports in the media has speculated on the winners and losers in a changing climate. Alaska is being called “the new Florida” and Detroit is being touted as one of America’s “most desirable cities,” albeit in 2100.
I don’t want to play Cassandra here and I sure don’t want to start an argument. I’ll take the diplomatic way out and observe that there are differences of opinion on climate change. Heck, not everyone agrees that Mark Twain actually uttered the words that start this article; some attribute them to one Charles Dudley Warner!
The good news is that even if the worst predictions come true, that reckoning is decades away. By that time I fully expect to be in “the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.” But some of you reading this will be around to see whether the prognosticators got it right or wrong.
And what of the climate we are experiencing now? The drought in the West, the rain in Florida, the increase in tornados and powerful hurricanes? What responsibilities do we, as travel agents, have to instruct and guide our clients? How should we be thinking of how our business and our specialties might look in ten years? Twenty? Thirty?
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Kelly Monaghan, CTC, is a writer and publisher who has been covering the home-based travel agent scene since 1994. Prior to his entry into the travel industry he was a sales trainer for major companies such as AT&T, Arrow Electronics, and Brinks and wrote widely on sales and marketing for a number of professional publications. His Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course has been endorsed by OSSN and The Travel Institute. His publishing company, The Intrepid Traveler specializes in Orlando area attractions and offers discounts to travel agents who wish to use its guides as gifts or premiums.