The Adrian Loveridge Column – Wooing Long Stay Visitors
We now have over 36 weeks or more than 250 days to maximise our visitor arrivals numbers before normal climatic global conditions return with the start of a new winter season.
Frankly our summers have always been a challenge and whatever spin we put on this long running scenario, there are little more than band-aid solutions available, if we are going to be totally honest.
Of course events can play a critical role in helping maintain the numbers, but there is so much more we have to be doing in the background, to compete in an increasingly diverse and attractive choice of affordable destinations.
One of the areas I believe needs a great more attention is our long stay repeat visitor market, especially those with second homes on island.
How can ‘we’ encourage them to spend more time on Barbados?
Probably one of the biggest deterrents, are the relatively high cost of airfares, but there are still enormous opportunities here, if we look further. Many of our second home owners are retired or approaching retirement. They do not necessarily have to travel on peak travel days like Saturdays or Sundays, but are able to fly on traditionally quieter Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
With a little research and creativity there are also relative ‘bargains’ out there which with some flexibility can help with the overall cost.
An example is using American Airlines AAdvantage miles one way from Barbados to Heathrow via Miami where selective journey dates are available for 32,500 miles and US$52.91 in taxes and add-ons.
Of course you still have to a purchase flight in the opposite direction but with no VAT on British purchased flights, that’s a saving of at least 17.5 per cent when compared with tickets bought in Barbados.
And there are several options including Norwegian Air from Gatwick via Fort Lauderdale with JetBlue with fares from GB Pounds 233.
When the current Government introduced the 2 per cent levy on locally issued credit card purchases to supposedly dampen overseas purchases requiring foreign exchange usage, perhaps like many, I personally thought, it was highly unlikely to curb demand.
As we import the vast majority of consumed products, often costing twice the price of the identical item from where it is shipped, that concept was never going to work, quite simply. To combat this, my guess is the vast majority of people, including myself, switched to alternative methods of payment like American Express, Discover and Diners Card where this opportunist tax does not apply.
Using miles to reduce the cash cost of flights also allows both locals and visitors to break the journey, especially via Miami, but it could also apply to Toronto or Montreal as well. The return of a direct American Airlines New York service and possibly other gateways would greatly increase other options.
Even taking into account an overnight hotel in one or both directions, the savings over Barbadian prices for personal consumables would more than make up for this expense.
Over the years, sadly the use of miles to drive additional volume has not been given the attention I believe it deserves. And I can only think the reason behind this is that our tourism policymakers and planners do not even think of the potential, as they probably travel on full fare tickets.