Florida Hurricane Season; Florida welcomes you, how to plan, how to be ready, what to do if a hurricane hits
The 2011 Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico is off and running and if you are wondering if you should plan on traveling to Florida between June 1st and November 30th, the answer is:
Each year we start the hurricane season with tips on planning your Florida vacation and assure you that a Florida vacation will still be safe and fun. But, should a hurricane hit, we also share with you what to do to remain safe, while not loosing vacation time.
I asked the great people at Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau to help me, so here is Jennifer Huber’s excellent advise to make your Florida vacation a great one.
1. What can someone do to prepare ahead of time, while booking a trip to Florida, to be ready in the case of a hurricane (work with hotel on alternatives, what will hotels do, refunds, working with a CVB, insurance)
Importantly, hurricane season should NOT prevent someone from planning a Florida vacation or a vacation to any other part of the country vulnerable to hurricanes, which includes the entire East Coast of the United States and Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. A direct hit from a hurricane is a rare event.
During the planning process, vacationers should be aware and look into flexibility when booking travel. For instance, some airlines don’t have change fees. For peace of mind, travelers can book a stay with an accommodation that offers a risk-free guarantee, meaning, if their vacation is disrupted by a named-storm, their deposit will be refunded and won’t be penalized if they need to cancel or unable to stay for the duration of their vacation. Find out what the refund policy is and how guests are notified about a hurricane which is impacting the business.
Research travel insurance options during the trip planning process, not once there’s a storm. Be sure the policy covers trip interruption due to named storms. In general, airlines and accommodations are flexible and understanding if a named storm is disrupting a vacation, but, if there’s a tropical storm (which is not a named storm), the flexibility may not be there.
2. If a hurricane is headed towards Florida, what should guests here do?
Visitors should be aware of the difference between a hurricane watch and hurricane warning. A watch is when hurricane conditions are possible and a warning is when hurricane conditions are expected. The fortunate thing about named storms is that there is advance warning and opportunity to prepare and make alternative arrangements.
Florida visitors should also be aware the state is large so if a hurricane makes landfall in one region, chances are the other regions won’t be impacted.
If a hurricane is heading toward a specific coastal destination, guests should make safety their number one priority. In the event they are asked to evacuate, they can work with their hotel in finding alternative accommodations, or, if they booked with a travel agent, they can work with them. The local tourism office will have resources, too. Visitors should pay attention to television, radio and Internet newscasts for current information.
VISIT FLORIDA has resources for both the tourism industry and guests. General tourism information is accessible through 1-888-735-2872. Their website will also be updated with information in the event of a named storm (www.VISITFLORIDA.com).
3. Does Port Charlotte CVB have anything in place to support local travel entities (hotels, restaurants, etc) to prepare or work with guests who may be in the line of a hurricane?
The Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau has a crisis preparedness plan and we work with the Charlotte County Office of Emergency Management to distribute accurate information to our industry partners who then inform their guests. In the event of a named storm we will update the website (www.charlotteharbortravel.com) and utilize our social media channels (twitter.com/chgiflorida and facebook.com/charlotteharbor) with the latest information. We also have a call center which tracks accommodation availability to provide guests needing a place to stay. (Our visitor information number is: 1-800-652-6090). Our priority is to ensure guest safety and safety of our tourism partners. Then, once the storm has passed, our priority is in recovery and getting businesses back operating.
We encourage our accommodation partners to participate in the Charlotte Harbor Risk-Free Guarantee (http://www.charlotteharbortravel.com/cms/index.php?id=366 – we’re in the process of updating it for the 2011 season)
Book with Peace of Mind
This valuable program safeguards your purchase of hotel/condo/home rental stays at participating accommodations* during the entire Atlantic hurricane season – June 1, 2010 to November 30, 2010. The Risk-Free Vacation Guarantee program provides the following types of protection:
Traveling by Air – Guests holding confirmed reservations with a nonrefundable deposit at an accommodation in Charlotte County, and who are unable to travel due to closures of Charlotte County Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and Tampa International Airport caused by a Category One or higher hurricane as determined by the U.S. National Weather Service, can rebook their accommodation reservations without penalty. A one-category room upgrade may also be provided based on availability.
Traveling by Automobile – If a hurricane watch is issued for Charlotte County by the U.S. National Weather Service 36 hours or less prior to check-in, guests holding confirmed reservations with a nonrefundable deposit can rebook their accommodation reservations without penalty. A one-category room upgrade may also be provided based on availability.
In the unlikely event that a hurricane watch interrupts guest and hospitality operations for more than 24 hours and/or an evacuation order is issued, guests already on property will receive a certificate valid for a free future stay. Certificates will be valid for the same duration as the original stay and must be redeemed within one calendar year from the date of issuance at the same accommodation where the original stay occurred. Free future stays will be awarded subject to availability and certain blackout dates apply.
The Risk-Free Vacation Guarantee program excludes group bookings and may vary slightly depending on each accommodation’s terms and conditions. It is subject to change at any time. The certificate and offer is honored and redeemed by the participating accommodation, not the Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, and is valid for one year and does not include airfare.
Many who work in the tourism industry today lived and worked in the destination during 2004’s Hurricane Charley. Lessons learned from that Category 4 storm are applied to updated crisis management plans.
4. Where are some great resources for travelers to find out about hurricanes, hurricane preparations, what to do in the event of a hurricane.
Thank you to Jennifer and our friends at Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau for your excellent help.
NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center on Facebook