Group Head of Customer Welfare Carol MacKenzie gives her views on travel during Hurricane season:
05 Sep 2017 - 11:03
The hurricane season for the Caribbean and North America officially lasts from the start of June until the end of November, but most serious hurricanes happen between mid-August and mid-October, when high ocean temperatures in the tropics and warmer, wetter air combine with a quieter time for high-altitude winds which normally break up a storm before it gets going. These conditions literally can create the ‘perfect storm’ which feeds itself as the air rises, sucking in more air and more energy.
Hurricanes are relatively infrequent, even within the peak period, and while most can be prepared for and the impacts limited, in some cases they can be severe and life-threatening. Just recently, Hurricane Harvey claimed 45 lives as it hit the coastline in Texas, damaging 185,000 homes and destroying 9,000, displacing over 40,000 people. For our customers, it the Caribbean Islands, Florida and Mexico during late summer and autumn where Hurricanes risk affecting their holidays.
In all of the areas at risk of a hurricane, the local government has tried and tested hurricane procedures which are activated when a hurricane or tropical storm warning is issued. Hotels also have protocols in place for hurricanes and will give directions to guests. Tour operators and airlines are a part of a huge organisation, where local authorities make decisions in the best interests of everyone affected based on highly detailed localised information. It’s our role to make sure that our customers are aware of and follow the advice of local authorities, so that our customers stay as safe as possible.
All of our staff in hurricane areas know the procedures that are put into action by hotels when a hurricane warning is issued. This includes providing food supplies, fresh water and instructions to customers on where to stay as the worst of the hurricane passes through. Where customers are staying in self-catering accommodation like villas we provide information on how to prepare themselves and their family. We also provide specific information via our noticeboards in hotels where possible and our Connected Service operates 24/7 to offer further support (see travel documents for details).
Many customers think they will be evacuated as soon as possible, but more often than not the safest place to stay is in the hotel itself, which are built to withstand severe hurricane-strength winds and rain. A long transfer across a Caribbean island in the hope that aircraft are still able to take off and land poses much more of a risk than staying in a hurricane-proof hotel. That’s why many island governments in the Caribbean and elsewhere shut down road transfers as a hurricane approaches.
There are a few tips that will help when travelling to a hurricane area or when hurricane warning is issued:
- Make sure your travel insurance covers you for natural disasters – that doesn’t always come as standard.
- Give family and friends the address and telephone number of where you are staying, and keep a note of their number, as well as your airline’s and tour operator.
- Take all the medicines you need for your stay, including anti-diarrhoeal drugs and water purification tablets in case the local water source become contaminated.
- Always follow the advice of your hotel and reps in resort. They have procedures which are designed to keep you safe and hotels will give water and food supplies to see you through the storm.
- If you are staying in self-catering accommodation be sure to stock up on sufficient food and water for several days and have torches in case of power cuts.
- Pack a small bag and keep your passport close at hand, preferably in a plastic bag. Local authorities may issue an evacuation at short notice.
- Charge your phone before the hurricane. Power may go down and you may need your phone, especially if friends and family want to contact you to check in
There is more information and link on the UK government’s advice page here.
Taking your loved ones anywhere is a serious decision and ultimately of course it’s up to you where you choose to go on holiday. You should always consult FCO travel advice before making your decision. Whichever Thomas Cook holiday you choose, you can always be assured that your safety is our first priority.