The Adrian Loveridge Column – AA Daily Service from North Carolina a Boost

We are just under a month away from welcoming what was once a single weekly Saturday service, to a non stop daily flight from Charlotte (North Carolina) to Barbados with American Airlines (AA). Initially the route will be operated every day until 2nd April 2019 and then again from 6th June until 9th August.

In the system at the moment, AA have scheduled an Airbus A319 with a total seating capacity of 128 seats, 8 in first class, 24 in main cabin extra and 96 in main cabin. This configuration offers tremendous possibilities for our huge myriad of accommodation choices, from luxury to budget.

In total, the additional capacity provides another 17,792 airline seats in Barbados over the next eight months.

Judging by the enormous social media feedback the increased availability from Charlotte and its connecting cities is being warmly welcomed.

Despite the pivotal role Miami plays in attracting US airlift, many Americans prefer not to transit this enormous hub, if there is an attractive alternative choice.

That having been said, American Airlines are also adding a third daily service into Barbados, from Miami again starting December providing even more connecting city possibilities.

I think we have to give enormous kudos to all involved in growing our US market to a record number of stay-over visitors of 188,970 last year.

It is even more remarkable, when not that long ago, US visitor arrivals went through a prolonged period of stagnation, with little or no growth during a period lasting a decade.

The Charlotte Metropolitan area is the fourth largest in the US south eastern region, only behind Miami, Atlanta and Tampa with a population embracing Charlotte, Concord and Gastonia that exceeds two and a half million residents.

Of course, it’s not all about the numbers. We learnt from our experience as a tour operator installing one of the first custom built computer booking systems in the United Kingdom, that demographics played a critical role in building any travel based business.

Even 40 years ago, our computer system was based on searching by customer last name and postcode. It soon became apparent, that our market was largely captured from particular defined economic residential areas with relatively higher average household incomes.

So obviously we concentrated our marketing efforts and promotional spend in those locations to maximize effectiveness.

Looking at the median income levels in the greater Charlotte area, it would appear that a large number of residents have the means to afford a vacation in Barbados.  From statistics available by age, median income levels are listed at US$32,769 for under 25 years; $48,006 for 25-44; $58,863 for 45-64 and $40,405 for over 65’s.

The secret of course is how ‘we’ most cost-effectively reach those with sufficient disposable income and convince them that of the current 24 Caribbean destinations which have non stop flights from Charlotte Douglas International airport, Barbados is their most compelling choice.

Judging by the impressive growth from the United States over the last three years, personally I have no doubt that considerable effort is going on in the background, to ensure every possible media opportunity is being pursued, which will raise destination awareness, to help fill these flights.

Boosting September Tourist Arrivals

Adrian Loveridge - Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Adrian Loveridge – Owner of Peach & Quiet Hotel

Once leaving August behind, we enter what is traditionally the most challenging period in tourism terms. Historically, the month that experiences the least number of arrivals of the year is September. September 2012 recorded just 27,230 long stay visitor arrivals, the lowest number in any month for the past ten years. A decline of 6.6 per cent over the same period in 2011. Given our already dramatically reduced airlift, with an average of just 907 passengers per day, it will result in flying hundreds of empty airline seats daily, or in fact thousands, by month end. Once the plane has taken off, clearly these seats cannot be sold twice the next day.

From an accommodation perspective, even if all these 27,230 persons stayed in a licensed hotel and the average stay was 7 nights with two per room, that still only fills less than 2,000 rooms against a total that is often quoted of between 5,000 and 6,000. This of course, does not take into account all the apartments, villas. condominiums and any unregistered accommodation providers. It also helps explain why several hotels and restaurants decide to close during September for annual holidays, refurbishment or simply to curtail operational costs. September, perhaps would have been the most logical month to roll-out the proposed APD Voucher but this could have only possibly influenced one main market, the United Kingdom.

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Logging Miles To Travel Miles

Adrian Loveridge – Hotel Owner

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.

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The Barbados AAdvantage Opportunity

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

Imagine having a virtually captive audience, motivated by all the right reasons and that is larger than your main source tourism market, the United Kingdom. That’s perhaps how we should be viewing the world’s first and probably the most successful loyalty programme, American Airlines AAdvantage.

Last year their 66 million members redeemed more than 165 billion miles to claim nearly 7.2 million awards for flights, upgrades and other rewards. Why do I consider it such an important tool to drive higher arrival numbers?

These people through their smart spending choices are accumulating the means to travel. In fact it goes beyond that now. Since last November, the programme has been expanded to allow members to redeem miles for car hire and hotel stays at more than 10,000 locations in 320 destinations worldwide. There is also the flexibility of using only miles or a combination of cash plus as few as 1,000 AAdvantage miles.

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American Eagle To Suspend Its Service Out Of Barbados To Puerto Rico

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

I WAS SURPRISED to read in this publication last week that American Eagle will suspend its service to Puerto Rico from April 15. Especially as according to the American Airlines website, a twice-daily service five days a week and once daily on the other two days of the week will continue from St Lucia to San Juan. Grenada also retains a thrice-weekly direct flight.

St Lucia’s minister of tourism was recently quoted in the media as saying that his government was negotiating with American Eagle to resurrect the St Lucia to Barbados route, so this may represent some sort of alternative link to Puerto Rico depending on flight schedules.

Otherwise it will involve a minimum travel time of four hours with a change of aircraft in either Dominica or St Lucia and Antigua with LIAT.

The loss of at least 280 airline seats per week must be a concern to our tourism planners as San Juan was frequently used as a hub to connect passengers from other United States cities.

Read full article in Nation Newspaper

Tourism MATTERS III

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

The new non-stop direct service from Dallas to Barbados, slated to start on the 16th December this year offers tremendous growth potential for our tourism industry. Not only will it tempt the estimated 6.5 million people that live in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area, the fourth largest metropolitan population in the United States, but it offers some incredible connecting city opportunities.

As the DFW airport website reminds us, no major city in the Continental United States is more than four flying hours from Dallas, so an overall in-the-air travelling time of less than ten hours will make all these cities accessible to Barbados. California which boasts a population over 36 million people, will then be able to reach us within a comfortable twelve hours, without the need to transit Miami.

American Airlines Texas hub has over 220 incoming flights DAILY serving 120 cities, ranging from Abilene to Wichita Falls.Add all the other airlines and the airport handles 58 million passengers a year or over 152,000 every day.

Of course, it’s about a lot more than numbers.

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Tourism MATTERS

Adrian Loveridge

Welcome to the very first Tourism MATTERS weekly column. Its objective is to comment on what is happening within our most important foreign exchange earner, while exploring if there are more creative solutions to tackling the industry’s many challenges.

The writer has spent almost his entire working life (44 years) in tourism, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator across 67 countries and for the last 22 years trying to become a good small hotelier. One of my biggest single disappointments has not being able to convince our tourism policymakers of the value and untapped potential of airline mileage programmes.

Why do I consider them so important?

The first ever airline loyalty programme, American Airlines AAdvantage was launched in 1981 and now has a staggering 62 million members. To grasp that number, it’s roughly the same as the population of the United Kingdom, our single largest market.

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American Airlines In The News

Thanks to GoWEB Caribbean for sending the images.

Recently we witnessed the spectacular but scary pictures of an American Airlines flight broken into pieces like a child would a stick of macaroni. According to other news American Airlines has suffered two other mishaps although not as serious as AA Flight 311.

Should would be passengers be concerned? AA is a major carrier in the Caribbean for inbound and outbound traffic.

Travel To Miami In December With American Airlines And Pay BDS$677 Return

Both fares quoted include all taxes and charges and are the lowest available online as at 15th December 2007. Is this the price of Caribbean unity and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy?

Adrian Loveridge

15 December 2007

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