Good news, bad news and a potential opportunity for the BTA to redeem itself
First let me sincerely congratulate those Barbadian accommodation providers that have received the prestigious TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2012.
These are not nebulous or arbitrary awards arrived at by a chosen few, but strictly based on the opinions of actual guests that stay and comment on their lodging experience in the named properties.
TripAdvisor state that usually only about 10 per cent of all listed hotels qualify and those inevitably offer exceptional customer experience.
Criteria also includes the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months, and limited to those who achieve an overall rating of 4 to 5, out of a possible maximum five, are eligible.
With over 50 million unique visitors to the world’s largest travel website each month, it’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool. Especially for those smaller properties with limited marketing dollars, enabling them to reach out and penetrate a global arena that ordinarily perhaps they could not even dream about.
But it goes way beyond that.
It rewards outstanding service, fosters repeat clientele and generally encourages direct booking at published rack rates. This is where ‘we’ as a destination can distinguish ourselves and punch above our weight in promotional terms.
For sure, as one industry veteran so ably commented recently, we cannot compete at the bottom on the barrel.
Over the next few weeks many national promotional agencies and individual lodging establishments will use their achievement of being awarded this accolade to garner massive media coverage, at no cost whatsoever. And for many travellers contemplating visiting somewhere for the very first time, it will become a vital reference point to aid final hotel choice.
It may be up to two years away, but another tremendous airlift opportunity for Barbados is on the horizon. Houston’s City Council has just overwhelming approved a project where the United States largest domestic and world’s biggest discount carrier, SouthWest will invest US$100 million into expanding the city’s William Hobby Airport. When completed, it would add a 25 flight per day overseas capacity through five new gates and a customs facility.
SouthWest will then principally use this hub to open new routes to the Caribbean, Mexico, South and Central America. Currently some of these services are operated by AirTran, which the airline acquired last year.
The strengths of SouthWest are the potential of the enormous volume of domestic passengers amounting to 25 per cent of the entire US market. 3,300 flights a day serving 97 cities in 42 states, who could connect through Houston, plus a successful history in pioneering low cost flights.
Even if you ignore, for a moment, the connecting possibilities, then the 10 county Houston metropolitan area has a population alone of over 6 million.
Flying distance Houston to Barbados is 2,557 miles or just over five hours.
Many of us have been disappointed that the American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth service has not performed better and I really think we have to question the reasons why. But with SouthWest, we have two years in which to negotiate, plan and promote the route.