Adrian Loveridge Column – A Way to Breath life Into Local Tourism

Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has claimed that it will become the first destination in the world to offer points when they launch their Maldives Border Miles campaign on 1st December 2020.

An archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 natural atolls spanning roughly 115 square miles, is the smallest Asian country by land area and population, with around 516,000 inhabitants located south-west of Sri Lanka and India and around 430 miles from the Asian continent.

It is a three-tiered loyalty programme for visitors who will earn points based on the number of visits and duration of stay. Additional points will be awarded for visits to celebrate special occasions. Arrival numbers issued by the Government indicated that the Maldives welcomed around 1.7 million visitors in 2019, up from 1.4 million in 2018.

In some respects the Maldives promotion has many similarities to the MILESCloser initiative we launched nearly twenty years ago, when Barbados was largely perceived as a destination a little further away from many of our competing islands, making it slightly more difficult and expensive to reach. At that time the miles or points required to fly to Barbados were the same, whether travelling (as an example) from California or New York, which at a stroke, took away any price differential deterrent.

Those two decades ago we also suggested to our policymakers that MILESCloser was taken a step further, by introducing a unique single destination branded credit card, in concert with VISA or MasterCard, where holders would gain points or miles to travel to Barbados and stay. This would apply to purchases and payments made irrespectively, whether in the visitors home country or while on holiday in Barbados. And while on island that same card would earn additional points and special discounts at any number of participating tourism partners including hotels, villas, other accommodation options, car rental, restaurants, shopping, attractions and activities etc. Any number of added benefits could be included for people using this proposed card to enhance the desirability and usage, including: pre-registered fast-track immigration clearance, airport/lodging transfers, room upgrades, use of airport lounge and preferred aircraft boarding.

The simple rationale was to enable that cherished guest the economic means to return to Barbados as inexpensively and hassle-free as possible, while building loyalty to the destination. Sadly, the concept was not seriously adopted and again perhaps we have partially lost-out to other competing tourism offerings that chose to seize the opportunities, when presented to them.

Clearly, the Maldives, another largely tourism dependent territory, feels that the new loyalty programme could play an important role in the slow recovery of their vital hospitality sector.

Incentive Travel the Way to GO!

One of the first and largest groups I brought to Barbados was back in the 70s. Seventy two people in total which included salesmen, their partners, distributors and the company’s senior management. While the firm, Cavalier Caravans, was headquartered in Sweden it had a substantial manufacturing plant in the Eastern English port town of Felixstowe which was at that time growing into one of the largest container ports in the world. The company found itself in a situation where both production and sales were concentrated into particular months and they desperately wanted to try and level the disparity, allowing better control of manufacturing unit costs.

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What Does the Merger of American Airlines and US Airways Mean for Barbados?

Adrian Loveridge - Hotelier

Adrian Loveridge – Hotelier

The merger of American Airlines and US Airways has now pushed the combined frequent flyer membership above the 100 million mark. Put another way, almost 33 per cent of the world’s third most populous country, the United States. In any market it would be a difficult segment to persistently ignore, but from our second largest source of long stay visitors, it defies belief, especially during times of economic challenges, when holiday budgets can be among the first to suffer. It may also partially explain why some of our neighbours have overtaken us in American long-stay visitors.

Sadly, the loss of the American Airlines direct service out of New York will further restrict the potential, previously having lost Dallas/Fort Worth and San Juan, plus Philadelphia with US Airways. But with the miles now totally interchangeable between the two carriers, we still have daily service from Miami and currently once a week from Charlotte. Whether the re-organisation will result in a downsizing of the North Carolina hub and curtailment of this flight remains to be seen.

Route changes have yet to be announced, so ‘we’ are not fully aware of any new opportunities that it may present, but that should not stop exploiting what already exists. One of the reasons why I am so passionate about airline loyalty programmes is because existing marketing initiatives in the USA simply have not worked. There has been no overall long stay visitor arrival increase from this market for six years, so surely it’s long overdue that alternative strategies are at least tried.

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