Tour operators assist scores of Sandy-displaced travelers

By Michelle Baran

Tour operators and packagers were working overtime on Tuesday to accommodate travelers impacted by delays and cancellations caused by Hurricane Sandy, which ripped through the East Coast Monday night.

Collette Vacations had more than 1,000 customers expected to depart, return or travel via the northeast region for a tour that were consequently affected in some way due to Hurricane Sandy.

Collette's crisis management team was working around the clock to accommodate travelers with canceled flights as well as to extend hotel stays around the globe for those who couldn’t yet return, according to Collette Executive Vice President Paula Twidale. The company was also assisting with rebookings for those unable to reach their destination.

Having a comprehensive travel protection insurance plan with trip interruption, which Collette offers its customers, is critical at times like this, noted Twidale.

The Travel Corporation was also working with hundreds of impacted travelers on Tuesday, including four tour groups that had been traveling in the Boston and New York areas when the storm hit. All passengers were safe and accounted for, according to TravCorp USA President Richard Launder.

The fact that the devastating storm hit during a lower travel season meant the difference between hundreds of impacted travelers and what could have been thousands of impacted travelers for TravCorp if it had hit during the high summer season, Launder noted.
In addition to working to get travelers out on their trips or to help travelers trying to return from their vacations, Launder said the company has waived all booking deposit and payment deadlines this week for agents and clients in impacted areas in order to give them time to get their operations and homes up and running again and for agents to focus on assisting clients for now.

With domestic travel to the Northeast winding down, Launder didn’t anticipate having to cancel any future tour departures.

Globus had less than 200 affected travelers and noted that all current travelers are safe. Those in the area of the storm had been placed in safe accommodations. Over the next three days, Globus plans on working with agents and their clients to help with travel and flight delays and getting them updated flight information.

Tauck, which is based in Norwalk, Conn., had closed its offices Monday and Tuesday with many Tauck employees working from home on Tuesday. The company’s reservation agents normally work remotely, so they are still handling calls as normal, according to Tauck’s corporate communications manager, Tom Armstrong. “Hold times may be a bit longer than normal, but otherwise agents and customers won’t notice anything different,” Armstrong wrote in an email. “We anticipate having everyone back in the office tomorrow.”

Tauck had some guests traveling internationally whose flights have been affected and the company was working with tour directors, agents and their clients to assist them. With the operating season for domestic tours essentially over, Tauck didn’t have any guests traveling in the northeast on impacted itineraries at the time of the storm.

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