The news was bad—a major hurricane, Patricia, was headed toward Puerto Vallarta. Then it got worse. It was the largest, most powerful hurricane ever recorded (according to some reports) in the Western hemisphere. The tourist areas along Mexico’s Pacific Coast prepared for the worst. Airports were closed. Guests were evacuated from resorts. Electricity was pre-emptively turned off in preparation of the devastation to come. And when it finally made landfall…
Ehh… not so much!
I am not sure why, but there seem to have been a lot of storms lately that have had the potential to be lions; yet in reality, they are mere mice. Perhaps it is the media hype. Perhaps it is global warming. Perhaps it is just Mother Nature’s way of keeping us on our toes. No matter, weather is something very easy for agents to ignore; but a critical component of the services we provide.
Sometimes we need reminders for some of the basics, and weather is one of them. While the weather in Maryland was spectacular this weekend, it was a different story in Mexico. I did not have any clients traveling there, but I regularly send groups to the Caribbean in August and weather monitoring is critical. But often it is very easy to focus on YOUR weather and forget about THEIR weather.
Your clients have spent a lot of money for a dream vacation (and hopefully travel insurance) along with fees for your service. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news; but in the case of weather, pretty much everyone knows not to shoot the messenger.
I will always put a forecast in my travel documents for the destination. First of all, it sets the expectation and assists the client with packing. Second, it affords me the opportunity to note any potential weather blips on the radar. If there is a day or two with a chance of rain, I try to spin it properly: “Oh it looks like it might rain on Tuesday—this would be the perfect time to visit the museum or maybe get that spa treatment you wanted—can I make the reservation for you?” With something like that, I have let the client know that I am looking out for them, have offered them something to do that was not impacted by the rain, and potentially added some revenue to the booking.
Of course with a major hurricane or snowstorm on the horizon, the conversation needs to be a bit more guarded and the dreaded “c word” must be discussed—cancellation. With severe weather, the client may be able to invoke their travel insurance to salvage the trip for sunnier days. Depending on the policy (or waiver), they may not. But as agents, we need to be aware of the limitations or at least be able to investigate them on our clients’ behalf.
One of the best resources I have found for Atlantic Hurricanes is the Atlantic Hurricane Network which has boots on the ground on most Caribbean islands giving live updates on the weather. These are people that live on the islands and know how the weather behaves, and is a fantastic resource when clients are at the destination and things begin to get dicey.
Keeping track of the weather is critical if travel professionals want to maintain their value with clients. A weather app might alert them, but it will be the human in you that will have a conversation and offer advice. How do you handle your weather emergencies? Do you operate similarly to me? Or do you have any other resources to share? Please leave a comment!