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.