What to do if you're planning Caribbean travel post Hurricane Irma
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Tuesday, September 19, 2017 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 19, 2017 12:52PM PDT
Hurricane Irma may be gone but the problems left behind will linger for months, and many people looking to travel to the Caribbean are scrambling to make other plans.
A couple in North Vancouver had their hearts set on the Turks and Caicos, but after seeing the devastation that Hurricane Irma left behind, they wanted to reschedule. The Club Med resort they had booked, however, was not so accommodating.
Despite Facebook photos showing some of the resort’s roofs ripped open, doors flung off their hinges and signs of damage everywhere, the Club Med website said it would "delay the arrival of new guests through Saturday, September 30, 2017.”
“No, I’m not buying it,” said John Van Stekelenburg, “It looks devastated. It’s not possible to be fixed in three weeks.”
Van Stekelenburg and his wife, Tracey, met at a Club Med resort in 1984 and they were looking forward to re-visiting on Oct. 7.
But when they last checked online, the Canadian government was telling Canadians to avoid all travel there.
A Vancouver travel agent says tour operators and resorts need to balance their needs with the needs of travelers.
“People are generally understanding. Obviously they're sympathetic to the destinations but also it's their holiday so they want to make sure they've got an option. They've got somewhere to go," said Richard Job with Flight Centre.
Even though hotels and resorts may say they'll be ready, Job says tour operators are on the ground checking to make sure.
"It's not in their best interests to send people to a resort that's not ready," explained Job.
Many tour operators are waiving fees to reschedule. Some will move you to resorts in other places, and if you are just booking now, consider travel insurance to cancel your trip for any reason.
When Van Stekelenburg tried to move the trip to April, he says he was told that wasn’t possible without losing $2,000, half the cost of the trip.
McLaughlin on Your Side reached out to Club Med. The company has reassessed the situation and decided to keep Club Med Turkoise closed until November 26th in order to rebuild. Guests whose travel plans are affected will be contacted by the company and given the option to revise them and switch to an alternate resort or cancel and be offered a full refund.
Club Med is also offering up to $200 to help with change fees assessed by the airlines to reschedule travel.
Club Med contacted Van Stekelenburg and he opted for a full refund.
“I guess you talked to the right people and you got results. I'm very pleased with the outcome,” he said.
He and his wife Tracey have decided to use the money to travel to another destination not affected by hurricane damage.
Sometimes there are special deals offered to get people to travel places still open for business after natural disasters like Irma, but Flight Centre isn’t seeing that yet.
There’s also still plenty of room at destinations that weren’t in Irma’s path because this is the shoulder season. However, if the Caribbean resorts affected by Irma aren’t repaired and ready in time for Christmas then operating resorts in the region could fill up fast.
The Caribbean Travel Update is a resource to check for damage reports on hotels, resorts and tourist attractions. If your hotel is listed as damaged or destroyed, the next step would be to reach out to the company you booked your trip with.