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Hurricane Sandy Travel Updates for October 31, 2012October 31, 2012 By: Joe Pike, David Eisen, Meagan Drillinger, Susan Young, Jena Tesse Fox
A bit of good news as the northeast works to return to normal after Hurricane Sandy: Two of the biggest airports serving New York—John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty International—have reopened, according to the Associated Press.
The first passenger flight to JFK arrived from Long Beach, Calif., at 7:04 a.m. Wednesday. The JetBlue flight carried 150 passengers.
The first flight into Newark, N.J., was a FedEx plane that landed at 7:12 a.m. Some terminals at Newark had lost power during the superstorm but electricity returned on Tuesday.
New York's LaGuardia Airport remains closed. Authorities are assessing the impact of the storm on the airport.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Ron Marsico says the two airports reopened "on a very limited operational schedule." He urged passengers to call their carriers before heading to the airports.
Important to know: The AirTrain services at Newark and JFK are not working, but buses can access the terminals. With public transportation--including the subway and commuter rail systems--completely suspended, the best way to get to the airports is by driving. If a lengthy delay seems possible, be aware that many services at the terminals--like concession stands--may not be fully operational.
Cruise ships in the New York area and beyond continue to be impacted as several ships are still waiting for the Port of New York to reopen, which Norwegian Cruise Line now hopes will be Thursday or Friday of this week. Norwegian Gem has sailed to Boston to take on supplies and provisions today, while Crystal Symphony has bypassed New York completely and sailed for Charleston, SC, where it will disembark guests and embark guests for its next cruise (originally slated for embarkation in New York) later this week.
Caribbean Princess is still stuck in Boston for yet another day, and the line is hoping it may be able to dock in Manhattan in lieu of Brooklyn on Friday. Other lines too have adapted schedules throughout the week. Carnival Cruise Lines has cancelled two cruises, one from Baltimore and one from Norfolk, and re-worked the schedules of many others.
Some lines have announced compensation for guests, although cruise lines typically are not liable for weather-related changes. In addition, cruise line private island clean-up is underway in the Bahamas. Read about all the shifts, changes and updates on the cruise front at a new story loaded today, Oct. 31, at http://www.travelagentcentral.com/ocean-cruises/ny-bound-ships-still-stuck-sea-cruise-lines-adapt-private-isle-clean-begins-37706
In hotel news, properties along the Eastern seaboard are working hard to accommodate the increased amount of guests.
Fox News is reporting that hotel reservations desks have been "fielding countless calls from thousands of stranded travelers seeking to either cancel their rooms or find a place to stay around major cities in the Northeast."
In situations like these, there is often a fear of price gouging, but the article is reporting that in this case it is quite the opposite. "In fact, some properties are offering special deals," the article reports. "Kimpton Hotels is offering 20 percent off stays at hotels in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Alexandria & Washington D.C." The promotional code? Sandy.
USA Today writes that, "Hotels ranging from a $1,000-a-night luxury lodgings to budget-priced properties are stocking light sticks - and in some cases flashlights - specially for the storm."
The Four Seasons New York gave out a small bag with extra water, a flashlight and a note from the hotel's general manager.
Other hotels, such as Aqua Hotels & Resorts, will not charge any cancellation or no show fees through tomorrow, November 1. They are also offering a 15 percent discount on best available rates for travelers. Baltimore Hotels, such as the Hotel Monaco and the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court, are also offering discounted rates.
The Herald Sun is reporting that the Jefferson in Washington, DC, is also offering discounted rates, and free muffins.
The overall result of the hurricane could be financial losses for hotel owners and operators. According to The Wall Street Journal, although hotels are replacing some of the canceled guest room reservations, many of those canceled reservations involved high-grossing meetings and events.
"For the most part, this will be lost business that you're never going to get back," Pebblebrook Hotel Trust CFO Ray Martz told the Journal. Pebblebrook owns such New York hotels as the Affinia and the Benjamin.
Jeffrey Donnelly, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, told the Journal that CEOs are wary and pessimistic.
"Without a doubt, CEOs seem to expect a net negative impact from this storm as compared to normal-for-the-year weather events," Donnelly said. "Damage is insured, but the loss of business here might not be."
STR’s next report will track how the hurricane effected hotel performance, however, as Jan Freitag of STR told USA Today, less hotels were able to report in New York due to loss of power, flooding or evacuation.
"We were positively surprised when 95 hotels submitted their daily performance data to us," Freitag told Hotel Check-In on Tuesday. "Normally, our nightly sample is around 174 hotels and of course some properties were impacted by the storm.
“The performance of the hotels that did report to us was not materially different from any other Monday in NYC, with occupancy just above 80 percent and an average daily rate of around $290. So far our data is showing no impact positively or negatively from the storm.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg agrees with the Journal that hotel companies will be hurt by Sandy in the long run, specifically those companies with a large portion of supply on the East Coast.
Those include Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and real estate investment trusts including Host Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Westin New York Grand Central, and Hilton Times Square landlord Sunstone Hotel Investors.
Room-revenue growth was “generally soft through the first three weeks of the month,” before Sandy hit, Nikhil Bhalla, a senior lodging analyst at FBR & Co. in Arlington, Va., said in an e-mail. “So I expect results for the last week of October to be notably soft.”
Bhalla went on to tell Bloomberg that U.S. revenue per available room would probably grow 5 percent to 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter. However, before Sandy, he was expecting growth of 6 percent. The East Coast cities of New York, Boston and Washington account for about 10 percent to 12 percent of U.S. lodging revenue, he said.
In terms of hotel closures, Starwood closed the W New York Downtown as part of the city’s mandatory evacuation and shut the Le Parker Meridien after a crane on the One57 residential development nearby partially collapsed.
“Some other hotels through the region experienced outages of power and telephone services but are using back-up generators and systems,” Starwood wrote in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. “In a few cases, guests are being relocated to other Starwood hotels.”
The hurricane could not come at a worse time for the hotel industry. According to a statement by Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen on October 25, demand was already enervating.
The storm’s economic toll is expected to exceed $20 billion. The total would include insured losses of about $7 billion to $8 billion, said Charles Watson, research and development director at Kinetic Analysis Corp., a hazard-research company in Silver Spring, Md.
“Hotels typically are well-insured for these types of events,” Bhalla told Bloomberg. “The issue is that their insurance premiums will go up after such an event, so it will hit their margins a bit in the quarters to come.”
The storm's impact continues to be felt across the Caribbean - Fox News is reporting that Hurricane Sandy has been blamed for at least 69 deaths in the Caribbean. In Haiti, officials say as much as 70 percent of crops were destroyed in some areas. The official death toll was 52 as of Tuesday. In Cuba, officials say the storm killed 11 people, including an infant, damaged more than 130,000 homes, and destroyed about 15,000 homes in eastern Cuba. The hurricane especially battered the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, where the official media described the material damage as “terrible.”
According to Latin America Herald Tribune, reports from local media, journalists and bloggers indicated that in Santiago de Cuba the hurricane triggered mudslides, shattered windows in tall buildings and stores and caused other damage.
One elderly man was killed in Jamaica when a boulder rolled onto his property and crushed him as the eye of Sandy traveled over eastern Jamaica. Also, according to the Fox News report, floodwaters flattened farms, ripped roofs off houses in shantytowns and marooned rural areas. Police say the hurricane apparently killed two people in the Bahamas, including the CEO of a bank who fell from his roof while he was trying to repair a window shutter as Sandy approached Thursday.
In the Dominican Republic, the storm killed two young men who drowned while attempting to cross rivers in separate incidents. Nearly 30,000 people were evacuated due to widespread flooding in the south of the country, including parts of the capital. In Puerto Rico, the U.S. island territory was spared a direct hit but heavy rains caused flooding on the island. One death was reported, a man who was swept away in a rain-swollen river near the southern town of Juana Diaz, according to the Fox News report.
Sandy also impacted flights to Hawaii. According to Pacific Business News, United Airlines canceled all of its flights in and out of Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey for Monday and Tuesday, including its direct flights to Honolulu International Airport. United also canceled flights to and from Washington’s Dulles International Airport for Monday and most of Tuesday, including its nonstop flight to and from Honolulu.
Hawaiian Airlines canceled its nonstop flights between Honolulu and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Monday as well.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for the latest news and updates on the storm's aftermath.