From the 7th September until 14th November, American Airlines will lower their mileage requirement to allow return travel from any point they serve in the Continental United States, Canada or Mexico to Barbados for just 25,000 miles. So whether you live in the north east corridor, mid west or pacific coast area, the miles required are the same irrespective of distance travelled. Geographically it opens up access to Barbados to millions of potential visitors that might normally find the normal published fare, financially inhibitive.
Take Seattle, Washington State, as an example. The lowest bookable fare online is US$832.40, but still only 25,000 miles through AAdvantage, plus a nominal US$56.50 in taxes and add-ons.
But some may say, you have to spend at least US$25,000 to obtain the minimum miles required. Not so, as many credit card issuers are giving very generous incentives for switching to their product.
Citibank is currently offering their Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa Signature credit card where you receive a bonus of 30,000 miles if you spend just US$1,000 in the first three months of membership. It doesn’t end there. You also get priority boarding, 25 per cent discount on certain in-flight purchases, a US$100 flight discount once a year, Double miles on eligible AA purchases, 10 per cent of your redeemed miles back and the annual fee waived for the first year.
Of course, certain conditions apply and unless the monthly balance is settled on time, in full, like any other similar card, interest will be payable.
So to summarise, just by selectively using this card to pay any one of number of bills totalling $1,000 or more, you have already created the means to reach Barbados and return home for $56.50.
With over 69 million members, AAdvantage can offer substantially more, in fact, than the entire adult population of the United Kingdom, which is still our largest single market.
How do we reach this potential?
The simplest way would be to smart partner with Citibank and the airline and use their current methods of communicating with clientele. As an attention getter, a number of accommodation prizes would spark interest and help drive destination choice. The national marketing agency could also pre-purchase miles and lower the minimum requirement, making it even more attractive for travellers.
Even at consumer rates, 5,000 miles can be bought for around US$100. Corporate bulk quantities can be negotiated at substantially discounted rates. What a programme like this does at a stroke, is immediately take away, what many pundits argue, that because Barbados is further away, its more expensive to reach. And if a promotional campaign like this is rolled out in time, monitoring of its success or failure could easily be policed by incorporating a code like the unique flight booking record locator and the name of the final accommodation choice.
While the concerted regional battle goes on to address the injustices of the dreaded APD (Advanced Passenger Duty), whatever may be finally agreed, it is not going to make a meaningful difference to visitor arrival numbers for the remainder of this summer.
So why don’t we concentrate on something that could drive additional business, or at least give it a try.