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Dealing With Unexpected Travel Problems

Group tour planners depend not only on their personal experience and expertise, but also on the assistance, professionalism and follow-through of their employees and countless suppliers. When one of these fails to deliver as promised, it can cause a lot of problems and concerns.

But by avoiding panic, keeping your wits about you, and rationally seeking solutions, a workable alternative can  always be found. Even during natural disasters like floods, tornados, forest fires or earthquakes, there’s always a reasonable, though perhaps not ideal, alternative available, and guests will understand and appreciate the efforts expended in arranging it.

I still remember what we subsequently called Black Friday, the August day during the late 1970s early in my career when I worked for the AAA in St. Louis. On this memorable occasion, we discovered to our horror that the tour program’s previous manager had failed to make any hotel reservations whatsoever throughout New England for a schedule of fall foliage departures that were virtually sold out. We were faced with operating nine departures of this highly popular itinerary without having any lodging secured at the peak of the autumn season, plus at a time when the pope was scheduled to make much-anticipated appearances in Boston.

Consequently, I had no other choice but to call just about every decent property in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. I was on the phone continually for hours on end in an attempt to cobble together enough rooms so that somehow, we could manage to accommodate our almost 400 guests. Happily, we were successful in accommodating everyone in an acceptable fashion, at least partly because costs were of no concern, since the AAA’s reputation was at stake. But if I and my colleagues had panicked and thrown up our hands in despair, the results would surely have been disastrous.

Recently, I encountered a much less daunting task caused by a Canadian Rockies hotel I had booked last spring on behalf of a consulting client for a 2018 fall tour. Despite several subsequent requests on my part, the property had never sent a confirmation to my client’s office, so my assistance was sought when the document was still missing in mid-August. When I contacted the hotel, I was told that they did not have our reservation and no rooms were available, our arrival being over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

I sent an email explaining our need for 30 rooms to more than two dozen comparable properties nearby, but the first responses we received from those that still had space were far more expensive than we were seeking. However, after a couple of days, a most attractive property emerged with rooms at close to the same rate we had originally anticipated.

Airlines are a different animal, so if your group should be faced with a significant delay or flight cancellation, never, ever go to the counter and start screaming. Instead, avoid the inevitable line at the counter completely and call the airline’s group desk; calmly and professionally explain the predicament, and see what the agent with whom you are speaking — and who can access the same computer reservation system that they have at the airport — can do for you.

Don’t forget to express your appreciation when alternative arrangements — good or even maybe not so good — are finalized.

Keep calm and tackle whatever your problem might be with your chin up. You will find a solution.