Lena Katz: In your experience, what's the nice way for a hotel to accommodate cancellations/changes from customers who are victims of severe weather? (Note: This is different from the stated policy.)
Reed Timmer: I think a simple refund to be used anytime in the future is a "nice" way for a hotel to compensate cancellations because of weather, since it doesn't disappoint customers that may return in the future.
Trip insurance is a good idea based on the potential for severe weather at the hotel location, for example if the trip is to Florida during hurricane season.
If a hotel shuts down, it's usually for a good reason, like it’s in the path of a powerful hurricane and in a storm surge-prone area. Mandatory evacuations are issued for these coastal storm surge-prone areas, so in many cases the hotel has no option but to shut down, and I'm sure they're losing out on revenue as well.
LK: How do you think the hotels in New Jersey did in handling the SuperStorm Sandy situation?
RT:The hotels in the "surge zone" where persistent flooding was a near certainty, were shut down, and those able to remain open at higher elevations above sea level provided much-needed shelter for evacuees. It is incredible that the loss of life was not worse with such a devastating and meteorologically unique storm system. We have to give tribute to the forecasters, emergency personnel, and the decision-makers for hotels in the Northeast.
We chased the blizzard portion of Superstorm Sandy in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia as well: .
Communities such as Elkins lost power for several days.
We based out of a Holiday Inn Express in Elkins and they had a rock-solid action plan to keep their customers safe, including generators, food supplies, clean water, etcetera.
LK: We reported extensively in the immediate post-Sandy days that certain New York hotels seemed to be price-gouging in the aftermath of the storm, when many displaced and desperate locals were in need of emergency lodging. What's your opinion on that?
RT:I was not aware of this, but if it's true, it's definitely unacceptable. As a hotel owner I would feel like a terrible human being in making money off of the suffering and loss of people impacted by a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy. Aren't prices in NYC high enough? Unacceptable if they increased rates at a time when humans should help each other out.
LK: For people who are going to be stuck in a hotel during a blizzard, hurricane, etc. What are the behaviors that give staff a really hard time behind the scenes?
RT: The worst thing hotel guests can do when trapped during a hurricane or blizzard is put themselves in harm’s way by trying to experience the extreme (and usually dangerous) conditions. This is especially a problem when the conditions are so dangerous that even emergency personnel operations are hampered, and the last thing anyone wants to do is waste their resources rescuing someone who made a bad decision. Travelers, follow the rules imposed by the hotel, stay in the safety of your room, and watch videos of hurricanes and tornadoes on our website tvnweather.com of course.
Part two of this intriguing interview comes tomorrow, where Timmer discusses more weather- related hotel hiccups and how YOU can be a help, and not a PITA when on property.