As Another Storm Churns, UH Hurricane Expert Offers Advice to Travelers

Q&A With Prof. Carl Boger, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management

As meteorologists keep their eye on the latest developing storm in the Atlantic, during what's predicted to be an active hurricane season, Carl Boger, Ph.D., offers practical advice for travelers. Prof. Boger joined the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management as associate dean of academic affairs in 2005. In 2008 Boger became the first Clinton L. Rappole Endowed Chair. As a professor, he specializes in spa branding and retailing. Dr. Boger has also published and consulted in the areas of tourism development and revenue management.

The University of Houston offers a wide range of experts available to speak to the media about all aspects of hurricanes including issues such as travel, law, the Gulf oil spill, flood insurance and more.

Should we plan to travel during hurricane season?

Boger: Yes. Some of the best value is during the hurricane season, which many countries will refer to as their raining season. For example, you can save 40 to 50 percent during hurricane season. In addition, it will make your trip to the rain forest an even more spectacular experience.

In case of a hurricane, what should a traveler do?

Boger: Plan ahead. If you believe that a hurricane will be hitting the area, I would recommend leaving. However, the hotel may not refund the remainder of your stay. Reschedule your flight if you think that your flight might be canceled. It is better to fly out a couple of days after your scheduled flight than be stuck for a couple of weeks. You need to schedule your flight early because once flights are canceled, everyone will be trying to reschedule their flights.

Will a hotel refund your money in case of a hurricane warning?

Boger: It will depend on the hotel policy; however, many hotels have changed their policy only to refund the money if there is an actual hurricane. In other countries, where hurricanes are a way of life, their response would be, "Didn't you know it was hurricane season when you booked your trip?"

Normally, I would not recommend trip insurance. However, during hurricane season it could provide you with peace of mind. Make sure you know what the insurance will cover.

If my flight is canceled due to weather in my area, will they refund my trip?

Boger: The answer is probably not if you did not buy an air/hotel package. My recommendation when traveling during hurricane season is to purchase air/hotel as a package.

Are hotels safe during a hurricane?

Boger: Generally, yes. Since hurricane season occurs annually, they normally have generators and will have either shutters for the windows or hurricane-resistant glass. My recommendation is to stay at the newer hotels that would meet higher safety standards. The smaller, older boutique hotels might not provide you with the same level of protection.

Not all hotels are built to the same standard, but they are built much stronger in hurricane-prone areas. Further inland like Houston, some hotels are built to a higher standard than others. On many islands, most if not all of the major brand hotels are built to a higher safety standard.

Are people safe to stay in hotels in Houston during a hurricane?

Boger: I normally will check into a hotel in Houston during a hurricane if I do not plan to leave the city. Hotels are better able to keep the air conditioning operational. Many times after a hurricane my home is without power. It's advantageous to have someone else cooking meals and relaxing while I wait until the power is restored at home.

What is the hotel responsibility in case of a hurricane?

Boger: Hotels must show reasonable care in protecting you. Many times they will have guests come down to a centralized area during the storm to protect against flying glass. They will assist you in rebooking into another hotel more inland. Many times, hotel employees will stay in the hotel during the storm because the hotel might be safer than their homes and the hotel can still provide some basic services.