Nova Scotia

'Hang tight,' travel agents tell those with plans to head south

Travel agents are calling for patience from people with upcoming travel plans after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean and Florida.

New bookings on hold until conditions on the ground are confirmed

Irma cut a path of devastation across the northern Caribbean, leaving thousands homeless after destroying buildings and uprooting trees. (Gerben Van Es/Dutch Defense Ministry via Associated Press)

Travel agents are calling for patience from people with upcoming travel plans after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean and Florida.

Agents say it's still too soon to know how the popular tourist destinations have fared. While immediate needs such as electricity, food and water are the obvious priority, the next step will be rebuilding the economy in areas hit by Irma, said Gary Howard with CAA Atlantic.

"It was a terrible storm and affected a lot of people's lives."

Howard says travel experts are expected to be on the ground conducting damage assessments as soon as it's safe to do so.

"It's a bit of, 'What does the airport look like? What do the hotels look like?'" he said. 

No new bookings

Howard says no one will make any new bookings to the area until those questions are answered. He's also recommending no one change their travel plans until they know the situation at their destination.

"Obviously airports will be fixed very quickly because they need to bring in supplies and so on," he said. "So for now, it's a bit of a standby for the next few days."

Deanna Byrne, president of the travel agency The Destination Experts, is also receiving questions from customers.

"The best thing we can tell them is to hang tight until we can assess the damage and really get an idea of what's going to happen," she said.

Resorts rebuild quickly

Byrne says in some cases, like resorts in Turks and Caicos, the damage isn't structural. They could be welcoming guests as soon as October.

"A key component to their survival is those tourist dollars," she said. "What we have found is they rebuild very, very quickly. We can't really say at this point how long it's going to take because the destruction varies from destination to destination."

Byrne says what travellers won't see this winter is a huge spike in prices. She says contracts are negotiated a year in advance, so if the cleanup bills are significant, tourists won't see any change until next year.

With files from Maritime Noon

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