Travel Agent spoke with several travel agents about Sunday's deadly plane crash in Costa Rica and found that advisors remain confident in booking Backroads, the California-based tour operator that lost nine of its clients and one of its employees in the tragedy.
“This certainly won’t change my relationship with Backroads, nor should it change their guests' perceptions of them,” says Jean Pickard of SmartFlyer. “Accidents do happen and this is one that could have happened anywhere to anyone.”
“I’ve always had a fantastic experience working with Backroads and that won’t change due to this accident,” says Nikki Miller, owner of Travel With Nikki.
According to several media outlets, a total of 12 people were killed in the crash, including Backroads’ tour group leader, Amanda Geissler. Also onboard the plane were nine clients and two pilots.
“I feel for the agents whose clients were traveling,” says Lena Brown of Largay Travel. “I can't imagine how devastated they must feel. What a tragedy. I send clients on Backroads all the time and just had clients in Costa Rica. My heart is broken for those families.”
The guests included a family from Florida and a family from New York. According to the New York Times, the guests were the Steinbergs, a family of five from Scarsdale, NY, and the Weisses, a family of four from Belleair, FL. Two pilots killed were both residents of Costa Rica, according to an ABC report.
"Backroads has an excellent reputation and I feel for all involved in this tragedy," says Katie Rahr Kapel of Mode Travel Agency, Inc. "I can't imagine what they are going through. Sadly, Hawaii has had tragedy as well with helicopter excursions, so it shouldn't stop us from selling certain tours or destinations.”
The tragedy occurred when a Nature Air flight traveling from Punta Islita to San Jose, Costa Rica, crashed in the Guanacaste Mountains, according to an official Backroads statement.
"I do not know the reason for the crash, but Nature Air is not owned by Backroads," says Kay Merrill of Andavo Travel. "Backroads is a well known name so I guess that is why the articles have mentioned them. It could effect their Costa Rica trips, but I do not see why it would stop anyone from taking a Backroads trip in the future. I certainly hope not."
But Pickard thinks the tragedy will not affect a client's decision on whether to fly a small plane or not.
“I think there are people who have always worried about flying small planes and those who have never worried,” says Pickard. “I don’t think this accident will change the opinions of any of them.”
And advisors like Kapel think adventure-focused clients were aware of the danger involved in flying small aircrafts way before Sunday fatal crash.
“I think the type of clients that book these adventures are already aware of the risks and this could happen with any tour adventure operator," she tells Travel Agent. "There's always an additional risk on air, land, or water excursions. We also do have a general liability waiver that is signed for every booking."
So what should an advisor tell a client who is worried about booking with Backroads or any operator whose guests were involved in a recent tragedy?
"I would say I have booked over 150 trips all over the world with them and highly recommend them," says Merrill of Backroads. "I have taken four off their trips with my family. Their itineraries, guides, lodging and bikes are always as good as it gets."