Storm and Weather Preparedness for Tours & Events
Last Updated May 12, 2017
Staff is ready to go, you’ve sold more tickets than ever when you ask Siri a simple question that could cost you thousands of dollars: “What’s the forecast today?”
Spring storm season can truly be a nightmare.
This month, our Director of Partnerships, Ben Montgomery, connected with Mikol Hoffman, Director of Operations at Global Flavors. We absolutely love their food tours in the Caribbean with Flavors of San Juan, Flavors of St. Thomas, and Flavors of St. Martin. If anyone could give us insight into how to prepare for weather, we knew we’d find them in hurricane alley.
Ben: Global Flavors operates in 3 areas that could be considered in prime severe weather territory: The Caribbean. What range of weather options can potentially impact your experiences?
M: When you operate less than 30 miles from a Rain Forest, you get used to daily rain showers. Here in the Caribbean it rains at least once a day, especially around 3pm, which is just when our afternoon tour begins in San Juan. Luckily for us the daily rain is typically light and short, and the sun shines through not long after. They’re so typical in fact, that we even have a saying in Puerto Rico for when it rains with sunshine. Regardless, we can experience everything from that light sun drizzle to rain so thick you can barely see two feet in front of you. Even flash floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes! And on the flip side of the weather spectrum, the summer months bring stifling sun, heat and humidity levels over 80%. Talk about heat stroke!
B: With tours in San Juan, St. Martin, and St. Thomas, and now in the thick of the spring storm season, how much of an impact does the weather have on your daily operations?
M: Weather has a large impact on all aspects of our operations, small showers to flash floods affect everything from reservations to arrival times. Traffic comes to a standstill with even the slightest drop of rain, so any kind of inclement weather will inevitably lead to some sort of delay on tour. We receive many last minute cancellation requests whenever it rains as well. And of course, there’s always the struggle of conducting a walking tour in the rain: increased risk for accidents and injury, soggy customers, and missed opportunities to view historical landmarks.
B: What has been the most challenging weather-related experience in recent memory that you have had to overcome?
M: Thankfully we haven’t seen a hurricane for quite some time, but we’ve had to cancel tours due to tropical storms and tropical depressions. I remember one personal experience from my guiding days: we were stuck in the middle of a relentless rain storm with only the cover of a very narrow tunnel. The tunnel was perched on the bottom of a hill and the heavy rain turned the slope of the street into a waterfall. The group of 10 and I were practically pinned against the walls of the tunnel as we attempted to avoid being swept away by the currents. The rain would not let up and after an hour or so of waiting, we all gave up and ran for it to the next restaurant. We were soaked from head to toe but managed to laugh it off with some sangrias and towels our partner restaurant provided. It was definitely an experience we all would not soon forget!
B: Most of our partners operate “Rain or Shine”. While there are of course always exceptions, any tips on how can our partners can still provide that exceptional guest experience, even when the sun isn’t shining?
M: Preparation is the name of the game. We provide all our guides with their own personal green umbrella to carry with them on tour. If rain appears imminent, a quick call or text to all the guests on tour prior to arriving helps immensely. We advise them to dress appropriately, bring umbrellas if available, and to leave for the meeting point with enough time in case there’s unexpected traffic. We provide ponchos and/or umbrellas on our walking tours, and in some cases where we’re unable to provide for those, we steer the tour to a shop in order to allow guests the option of purchasing umbrellas or ponchos. We also conduct staff training sessions where they can share best practices and tips for conducting tours in the rain.
B: In those rare cases when mother nature forces a tour cancellation, what is your game plan on bouncing back from the lost tour, managing vendor expectations, and still ensuring a positive outcome for your guests?
M: We have detailed Standard Operating Procedures in place for cases such as these to ensure our guests still receive a quality user experience, even if that means having to cancel their tour experience. Thankfully most guests are understanding of the situation as they can usually see the inclement weather themselves. We contact all guests immediately and offer to reschedule for the next available tour. If that’s not possible, we offer a full refund plus restaurant recommendations to eat out on their own, as well as a promocode for future tours with us in any of our locations: San Juan, St Martin, or St Thomas.
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