Apple Vacations is still accommodating guests on St. Thomas who
are stranded by Hurricane Irma's destruction, but the wholesaler counted itself
lucky for having very little exposure to the storm.
As of Sept. 11, fewer than 100 Apple guests were still on St
Thomas awaiting cruise ship rescue transportation, said Jeff Mullen, Apple
Leisure Group COO, because the airport had not opened.
"All the passengers have been accounted for and the
latest plan is to get them from their hotels to Charlotte Amalie, where they
are bringing cruise ships from Mexico, San Juan and Florida and evacuating all
the passengers," he said.
Apple said most customers who had been on St. Thomas left before
the storm hit, from resorts including Sugar Bay, Frenchman's Reef & Morning
Star Marriott, the Ritz-Carlton and Bolongo Bay.
Apple also had very few guests left in St. Martin before the
storm arrived. Those who stayed had been evacuated to Guadeloupe by the French
Navy, while others were taken on relief flights to Punta Cana, where Apple
assisted in getting them back to the U.S.
The company had been ready to evacuate customers in Punta
Cana resorts if necessary, but Irma mostly missed the Dominican Republic and spared
Apple's two other top destinations, Cancun and Jamaica.
"It sounds like St. Martin and St. Thomas will take a
while to come back," Jeff Mullen said. "Maybe several months. St.
Croix is open for business and flights are coming in."
Apple provides the latest hurricane information for travel
agents in the travel advisory section of its Travel Agent Cafe portal.
"It's been a great source of communication," Tim
Mullen said, adding that the site has airline policies, hotel policies, airport
reopenings and closures and hotel openings and closures.
Mullen said the despite Irma being the biggest storm he'd
ever seen in his 30 years in the business, it would have little impact on Apple's
business because its top destinations were spared.