Barbados should partner with American Airlines AAdvantage miles

by Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner

Tourism MATTERS: We’re missing a huge opportunity

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.

Even during a recession, many are reluctant to forgo a holiday, but
obtaining perceived value for money and how travellers can maximise depleted earnings become even more important factors in destination choices.

The availability of airline seats often coincides with our softer occupancy periods too, and this presents us with an incredible opportunity to fill rooms that may ordinarily remain empty or can only be sold at highly discounted rates.

Take the period between 7th September and 14th November, AAdvantage reduces its mileage requirement to 25,000 for a return economy ticket from any city it services in North America to Barbados.

Some taxes are still payable but in the case say, from our new mid-western gateway, Dallas, amount to only US$46.

Other cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago US$51; Minneapolis and Denver, US$53.50.

So how do we reach the hundreds of thousands of travellers that already have the means to reach us?

The simplest and most cost effective way is to partner with American Airlines and carry any special promotion on their various and frequent printed and email communications to members.

By purchasing miles as a destination and lowering the minimum requirement, we could make Barbados even more attractive and at a substantially lower cost than the current airline subsidies and marketing support.

A new website, MILEStones, specifically targeted towards its loyalty programme members, presents another forum to disseminate high definition tempting images.

The recent AA Mystery Miles promotion attracted 160,000 visitors to its FaceBook page during a five week period and clearly demonstrates how effectively social media can be used.

A destination specific version of this could easily generate additional interest in Barbados.

There is also no reason why we should limit targeting this niche to the United States and Canada.

From 15 October until 15 May the required miles from Continental Europe to Barbados via the US is reduced to 40,000.

If ‘we’ are looking to fulfil the promised increase in long stay visitors from Europe, then this is another tool.

It also avoids paying the dreaded APD for flights that are routed via London.
Add-on taxes payable in US$ for return tickets to Barbados:

Paris $146.40; Madrid $91.10; Zurich $119.70; Brussels $114.40; Dublin $108.20 and Helsinki $95.60:

Tourism MATTERS is also published weekly in the Barbados Business Authority.

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22 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Barbados Tourism

22 responses to “Barbados should partner with American Airlines AAdvantage miles

  1. i hope they do…AA is usually the cheapest airfare from where i live to Bim…

  2. Hanna

    I think that this is a great idea! May-be we could also look at something similar to the Priority Club system, which works with Hotel chains – this could be
    introduced may-be to the Intimate Hotel Group.

  3. Anna

    Where can you get further information about the periods where you can used reduced miles for traveling?

  4. J. Payne

    I had wondered something similar. Like what if the Barbados government sold a stake in GEMs (years ago) to a consortium of airlines. Then the airlines would have a vested interest in bringing more folks to Barbados’ shores. In turn, the Barbados government might have been able to decrease some of the fees they’re paying just to fill seats.

  5. J. Payne

    But I wonder if that would have worked?

  6. Adrian Loveridge

    Anna,

    http://www.aa.com and then click onto AA Award Chart

  7. Homegrown

    Not to play the devil’s advocate but is getting here at a reduced rate, and possibly staying at a reduced rate enough for the average American? How can we compete with other less expensive, not to mention closer destinations. Also keep in mind that the American mentality (based on airtravel as it was up to 3 or 4 years ago) was that they were entitled to budget flights, gone of course are the days when you could fly from NYC to BB for $350US return.

    Anytime I have had American guests they’ve done a lot of whinging about how much things cost,ie.,”Honey, this can o’ Pringles costs $8.00, y’all can get a case o’ Pringles for $3.99 at Walmart…”I just believe that something has to be done to craft Barbados as an affordable destination A to Z…not just somewhere to go on your miles.

  8. watcher

    All things that can be done to enhance tourism must be done whether it is AA or any other program. After reviewing one of the latest travel sections of a major Canadian news papers here is what the reality is…

    -one advertsiment for Barbados by West jet vacations at the Amaryllis Beach Resort for 7 nights plus air $899.00
    -45 other advertisments for other sun destinations ranging between $445 and $700 for a similiar package.

    Perhaps there are an additonal 200 advertisments for destinations such as St Martin, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Jamica, St Lucia, Turks & Caicos..in the whole advertisment there is “one Barbados add”. How we all expect more people to come to visit when we don’t advertise and when there is an advertisement, it is for a 3 star hotel at a price point that is not competitive with 45 other advertisments?

    Ther are some big challenges ahead to get a reasonable product at a reasonable price

  9. Pig Foot

    @watcher

    “a reasonable product at a reasonable price”
    This is the key problem in Barbados due to the fact that in 90% of the tourism product it does not exist.
    The high cost of everything within brand Barbados (airfare, hotels, supermarkets, car hire) means that not only are we perceived as an expensive destination in the world marketplace in relation to our competitors, but we seem not to be doing anything positive to fix this problem.

    What is a reasonable product or price? Everyone here has a different opinion but the consumer is the final judge by their choice of destination. Unless Barbados reinvents itself, the days of tourism are numbered – no matter how many quick fixers write their revelations on this blog.
    The Barbados tourism society need the real AA approach (not American Airlines but Alcoholic Anonymous) – first they must admit that there is a problem then plan the steps for recovery.

    I fear that before they can admit that a crisis is looming, a crisis is needed and that might be an imminent devaluation, a hurricane or similar.

    Let us hope not.

  10. The Watcher

    Sugar as an industry had its day, so has the time come for us to move on from an industry whose value is now un-realizable.
    Tourism is a money pit! Plain and simple. We are stroking a dead horse, Well a decomposing one by now.
    I don’t care how many small hotels and people will go home as a result of this divestiture into a more stable foreign exchange earner. It has been seen and proven world-wide that when in a crisis, people tend to be quite innovative and resilient. Get out of the slumber that is fuelling ONLY the top of the Tourism tree and let us get to an industry which allows money to flow more un-impeded from the source down to the masses. Those who really prop up our economy by their work and spending.
    Many folk will oppose this view, but I can’t think that it is fair to taxpayers to funnel their monies towards something that is a waste just so that a few can have their pockets lines because they believe that it is their God-given right to do so or because of some other “colonialist privilege”, they have earned an entitlement to do so.
    Practically, Barbados is an expensive place to visit. The average potential visitor can find significantly more value for their money in other destinations. So why would they come here? What is Barbados” competitive advantage above other destinations? Who among you in the hotel owners industry is willing to reduce your profits by 1/3 so that you can attract more occupancy without sacrificing salaries or jobs? And help to start a trend of cost cutting aimed squarely at strengthening your collective competitive stance in the world tourism market?
    I bet not too many if ANY. Many of you Greed Mongers just WANT ,WANT, WANT, but show no returns on the investment which the country is placing into your businesses. This greed has got to stop or it will run into a brick call called NO MORE MONEY soon enough.
    Nuff said!

  11. watcher

    @Pig Foot

    It would seem to me if the major product being sold in a country is tourism, and it is being sold in a competitive market where the competitors have free floating currency and you do not, then currency valuation is going to have large effect on the price of your product. If we want to make tourism more attractive then revalue the currency to say 3 Barbados dollars
    to $1 US. If that creates a certain amount of belt tightening on the cost side, so be it. At least the belt tightening can be dealt with on a individual basis.

  12. Pig Foot

    @watcher
    This blog is not for you as you are making too much sense.

  13. J. Payne

    @The Watcher. Sugar is coming back. This time it is to fuel cars…. Corn is going up too high so soon people will have to look at more sugar cane ethanol instead.

  14. J. Payne

    Many Barbados companies probably would need to move their corporate HQ Trinidad to become more competitive. The Nation newspaper did this and profits at OCM are up… Trinidad is now talking to the Brazilians and asking them to come to their investment week coming up. So Trinidad is def. where Barbados industry needs to go. The Barbados government has run out of ideas long ago. They’re just about taxing more, and giving away things for free to win votes.

  15. Mark L. Fenty

    “Selling of our national pride”
    It has been many times said, that tourism has been the vehicle that gave rise to the economic development in Barbados and many other islands in the Caribbean. And it has in essence shaped the future development of the region as a whole. Nonetheless, there is a general consensus that supports the view, that in a region with limited or no natural resources, but its pristine beaches and the cordiality that reflects the characteristics of it s modern ethos. It makes good sense to still look toward the dying industry of tourism as one of the medium through which to gain the foreign dollar. But, has this economic prosperity that has been gained through the medium of tourism; created atmospheres that given rise to attitude of impertinent towards Barbadian people? Some tourist is of the opinion that because of our dependency on tourism, that it gives them the right to act without impunity on our island.

    Nevertheless, Barbadians don’t have to accep tthe disrespect from some tourist who believe that their do not have to conform to the prescribed mandates that govern our society. And this attitude is rooted I believed, in the Conventional atmosphere that has been creates to accommodate tourist to the island. With this been said, I have visited Barbados on numerous occasions and I have experiences first hand some of the inappropriateness Barbadian continues to accept all in the name of tourism.

    But does it worth the risk of sacrificing our national pride to appease those who in my view ,‘hold a less than favorable opinion of us; we somehow believe that it is in the best interest of our country to accept kind insolence? The greatest American abolitionist Fredrick Douglas eloquently states, that if we want the respect of others we must first respect ourselves”. If we abandon the belief that we are not of value ,then how do we expect others to view us.

  16. Distant Voice

    I seem to remember Loveridge saying we should not reduce the room rates as a solution. I agree. The answer is to improve the product. This will require some work (and increased employment) by private owners and government.
    We already have great beaches and other attractions. However, individual properties need to be upgraded and government needs to start a long overdue upgrade of the infrastructure. In particular we need new and continuous sidewalks on South and West coast main roads. These in turn would encourage safe walking, the creation of boutique shops, minimarts, and safer access for locals and visitors to local side roads etc from bus stops.
    Ever wondered why ZR vans stop everywhere.? Right now it is downright dangerous to walk with supermarket bags in both hands along the gutter of a busy main road, running the risk of having your head smashed in by the wing mirror of a passing van or truck (believe me it has happened to a few people already)
    Reducing room rates (as the watcher seems to believe) will result in the death of the industry. The problem is that by doing so, the owners can no longer afford to maintain the accommodation to the correct standard, the visitors start to complain on the internet and so on downwards.
    I have seen this happen in other countries.

  17. Adrian Loveridge

    Distant Voice,

    I really like that name, and think thats it probably better suited to me.
    Yes! I am on record at stating that lowering hotel room rates should NOT be the part of a marketing strategy. We should have realised by now with our current high operating costs and taxation that we can never compete on price, so it has to be on other things. Level of service, quality of product, safety and security and value for money.
    At our small hotel we maintain a reasonable average room rate and keep upgrading the plant year after year to ensure our regular returning guests notice the improvements.
    The room rate is paramount and almost everything other item including beverages and meals are kept at an affordable level.
    It works for us. We are able to maintain a standard of service and in fact are probably one of the only hotels on Barbados that does not have a mandatory service charge.
    Look at the TripAdvisor rating for many of our hotels and you will see that we are falling dramatically short of guest expections in a lot of cases.

  18. peltdownman

    Adrian
    You really must stop posting these good ideas all the time. You know that Chastenet logs on to the Barbados blogs just to pick -up your ideas! You suggest something this week, St Lucia does it next week.

  19. Adrian Loveridge

    Peltdownman,

    Thank you, but I don’t think even the Senator listens to me now.
    What has really resonated with me, as it should the entire Tourism industry is the statement made by the new BTA Chairman

    ‘Barbados’ tourism industry has never seen more that an average of 2.7 per cent growth since 1974′

    The next question that should be asked is that, has the annual spending averaged more than 2.7 per cent increase since 1974 and what was the average annual rate of inflation?

    If it has NOT and we have not kept up with inflation, then we have fallen behind.
    In any event, the performance is less than spectacular.

  20. Anna

    Thanks for the information Adrian. I did not see anything telling you about the dates the the Mile saver option would be effective. How do you find out the periods when the mile saver is in effect?

  21. Anna

    Saw it at the bottom, ignore my question.

  22. J. Payne

    Suggestion: I was just reading that Bridgetown is to find out shortly if it will be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Apparently, a part of the application was hung up on the abandond Mobile Oil plant by Needham’s Point.

    WORLD HERITAGE BID
    http://www.cbc.bb/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2205%3Aworld-heritage-bid&catid=7%3Abarbados-news&Itemid=12

    This fore mentioned location (Google Maps — http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=13.078632,-59.607525&spn=0.006438,0.011362&t=h&z=17 )was said to be cleaned up by the government and is just a large paved surface now. Would Ocean Park be more viable if it could make a land swap with the government of Barbados for that area? Afterall, it is right along the tourist belt. Plus it is closer to the sea so the park could use fresh sea water which might bring operating costs down too.