A local travel agent says she has had a number of clients impacted by hurricanes in the last couple of weeks.
Mary Jane Hiebert of Canada One Travel in Steinbach says Hurricane Harvey forced her to find alternate flights for clients flying through Houston and now Hurricane Irma cut a vacation short for a group of five to the Dominican Republic.
"That has been a huge impact for us, a lot of work," says Hiebert who spent many hours on the phone Tuesday trying to find out what the tour company was doing for her five clients.
Hiebert says it was still only a tropical storm on Tuesday for the Dominican Republic, with no signs that the hurricane would hit the island. As a result, all day long, no plans had been made for any sort of evacuation. But she says the decision to send in planes was made in the middle of the night, and by the time Hiebert got to work Wednesday morning, her five travellers had already vacated the island.
"It was a matter of then the tour company taking care of my clients at destination to make sure they were aware that they'd be leaving early in the morning," she recalls.
Those weren't her only clients impacted by Irma. In fact, Hiebert says she had a group of travellers scheduled to leave Friday for Puerto Rico; a trip that now won't happen.
When it comes to looming storms such as Harvey or Irma, Hiebert says she will get advisories from the airlines as to what is happening. This allows her to change or refund tickets in order to ensure the safety of her clients.
"Airlines don't want to have to have people on their planes, airports don't want people in their airports when things like this happen because it's a logistical nightmare for them," says Hiebert. "It is a big job for us to be aware in advance so that we can take care of it before the passenger travels."
Hiebert says what this does, it speaks highly of travel agents. She says it is now her responsibility to look for a refund from the tour company.
"That's going to be my job is to see what kind of value I can get back to these people," she says. "I don't know that they are going to be able to go back, the countries are really decimated right now."
She adds travel insurance is also always a wise decision. However, Hiebert says when it comes to hurricanes, there are loopholes. She says some insurance companies will deny a claim suggesting a hurricane is a natural disaster, stated in their policy.
Meanwhile, Hiebert says this is very unusual for her to be dealing with hurricanes in September already. Though travellers run the risk of hurricane season from September to the end of November, Hiebert says these sort of travel disruptions are not expected until November.