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.