It’s Official: St. Lucia overtakes Barbados for long-stay visitors from the United States

Barbados needs to pay attention to Air Mile point programmes

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner - now selling!

Adrian Loveridge, small hotel owner – now selling!

There is sometimes so much misinformation disseminated in the media about tourism, it becomes even more important that the facts prevail.

It’s official: Our neighbour, St. Lucia, overtook us for the first four months of this year, in terms of United States long stay visitor arrivals.

Despite having a much smaller room stock, St. Lucia welcomed 43,335 American visitors between January and the end of April, an increase of 6.6 per cent, when compared with the same period in 2012.

Barbados recorded 42,516 for the identical four months, a decline of 11.9 per cent.

The trend continues with the addition of a new weekly flight nonstop United Airlines service from Newark to St. Lucia, adding another 3,000 plus seats during the second half of 2013. So there is little doubt that St. Lucia will still be ahead in this market, by year end.

Newark Liberty Airport, offers for many, a more convenient access than JFK or La Guardia in the TriState area, one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. It is also United’s third largest hub after Houston and Chicago with the St. Lucia flight connecting with 22 US cities plus a number in Canada, increasing travel options and reducing overall journey times.

Americans have generally less paid holidays than Europeans, so it becomes even more critical to be able to reach the ultimate destination in the shortest time, if ‘we’ are serious about competing in this market.

And this perhaps, partially explains why we have seen such a dramatic fall.

In US arrivals, having lost direct flights from Philadelphia, San Juan, Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta. If the journey takes too long, involves an overnight stay in one or both directions or has a protracted connection time in Miami or New York, savvy travellers switch to a more accessible vacation choice.

Another way that St. Lucia can substantially benefit is by tapping into  the 52 million members of the second largest airline loyalty programme in the world, United MileagePlus.

Every day United redeems 17,000 reward trips.

For many years, I have been trying to persuade the policymakers to include a box on a revised landing card, to indicate if our guests used miles to reach us. To the best of my knowledge, no researched data is available to accurately gauge what percentage of our overall arrivals redeem their loyalty points on vacation travel. But from our own empirical evidence, we calculate it could be as high as 10 to 15 per cent.

The compelling reason for using miles is that they break down the geographical cost differential, because the same number of miles are required irrespective of the originating gateway within the Continental United States and Canada.

As a simple example. The lowest cost return flights from Chicago to St. Lucia booked online in August is US$886.  MileagePlus members would apply 35,000 miles with US$85.40 payable in additional taxes.

From my own personal experience, I use miles to travel at least twice a year using points earned through my credit card with American AAdvantage. This, despite not having purchased a full price ticket with the airline for many years. By selectively using this method of bill settlement, this month I will have amassed one million miles since signing up for the loyalty programme.

12 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism

12 responses to “It’s Official: St. Lucia overtakes Barbados for long-stay visitors from the United States

  1. Rastaman

    You must spend an awful lot of money on your credit card.I have had mine for at least 15 years and my total mileage is 190,000.

  2. just want to know

    I said this same story two years ago, went to St. Lucia and saw what was happening, was more or less called a liar on this blog, and earlier this year, when Barbados was having only one tourists boat a week, St. Lucia was having more than five a day. Our tourist industry under this Government if finished, too much white people in Barbados. ( so laughable }.

  3. badnews

    I said it before, and I am going to say it again… one of the country that is helping us in the tourism industries temporary is SVG, they have lots of resorts, in the Grenadines, and more investors are looking to build more hotels on the main-Land. 95% of their guest are coming through Barbados, 97.9% of the there citizen are in transiting through Barbados, to travel to another country or there Home land. their Grand Multi-million international airport with escalator, elevator and jet bridge is 95% complete. and in 6-12 months in operation, we are going to see huge decline in a lot of things, first it will be tourism, follow by other things… so we can’t solely relied on one product, we have to get deep into agriculture too, and look for how we can manufacture other products. We cannot just site on our hands and see other neighboring island run while we crawl…

  4. Mr Coco

    Sorry Adrian but it was only a matter of time. I love Bim and will always find the time to vacation there but Lucia is a better island. Its the whole volcanic lush veg thing. Surprised it took this long.

  5. PLANTATION DEEDS FROM 1926-2013 AND SEE MASSIVE FRAUD ,LAND TAX BILLS AND NO DEEDS

    Good when you do good, you get good ,
    Barbados have a lot to clean up first.

  6. 241

    Let’s hope St Lucia doesn’t get tired and ridiculously over-priced too. Let’s hope there is still some coastline to enjoy windows to the sea.

  7. KL

    What wise person would take advise from a failed hotelier?

  8. KL

    What wise person would take advice from a failed hotelier?

  9. Adrian Loveridge

    KL,
    I am intrigued, who is the ‘failed hotelier’ ?

  10. Yatinkiteasy

    What I find very interesting is the depth of information provided by the St Lucian Government on Visitor arrivals, compared to the sad charts offered by the Barbados Government. Those Lucian’s know what’s going on. Their stats don’t only show US arrivals, but break it down by region , state, and major city. The same for UK and Canadian arrivals…..you can see exactly where your visitors are coming from. Caricom Visitors are split out by individual country.
    They can target their advertising and marketing dollars better than Barbados can because they have better data.

  11. Pingback: Saint Lucia Tourist Board sends out Adrian Loveridge’s recent article | Barbados Free Press

  12. Adrian Loveridge

    Yatinkiteasy,

    How so much I agree with you. On one side the BTA/Minister chides the private sector tourism industry for not doing more, while on the other hand it does not make critical data freely available to them. To do exactly as you say, better target their niches and markets.
    Nearly 40 years ago, as a tour operator in the UK, we built (with a lot of help) our first computer system, which searched by last name and postcode. We noticed that a higher percentage of travellers came from certain postcode areas and could then far better target and use our limited marketing monies a lot more efficiently. It’s a simple example but it works.