We need to embrace airline loyalty programmes to fill almost a million empty hotel rooms


“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.”

Barbados is losing ground in our second largest tourist market

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert

The merger of American Airlines and US Airways has now pushed the combined frequent flyer membership above the 100 million mark.

Put another way, that’s almost 33 per cent of the world’s third most populous country, the United States.

In any market it would be difficult to persistently ignore a huge segment of our second largest source of long stay visitors, but that is what Barbados has done. 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 Caribbean 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 us from 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. 

Our American tourist arrivals are in crisis

Last year, up until the end of November there were 10,356 less US visitors and this when compared with 2012 which recorded 11,652 less than 2011.

Over the last decade an increased number of services and goods providers have seen the measured value of offering miles and become far more innovative in their promotional offers. For instance new websites like rocketmiles.com and pointshound.com tempt consumers by offering much high mileage on hotel bookings and if you pay by an affinity linked credit card, the miles mount up even quicker.

Affinity linked credit cards break down the price barrier for flights to Barbados

Several local hotels participate and guests can earn over 11,000 miles on a three night booking. A return economy flight is available from any American Airlines point served in the Continental States for as little as 25,000 miles to Barbados, breaking down the price barrier for longer distances.

For many it’s perhaps easy to see the benefits.

It also attracts clientele to the hotels who are paying closer to rack rate, therefore driving more revenue for the accommodation provider.

Or as one of the two mentioned companies so aptly puts it, we ‘offer hotels a unique way to generate demand when rooms could otherwise go empty or when they are seeking to get the attention of new customers’.

Just as an airline cannot sell the same seat twice tomorrow, once the night has passed that vacant room simply represents lost income that is difficult, if not almost impossible to recover.  With annual average occupancy at around 60 per cent across our registered hotels that equates to around 730,000 empty room nights per year and that’s before you factor in the villas, condominiums and unlicensed properties.


Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism

10 responses to “We need to embrace airline loyalty programmes to fill almost a million empty hotel rooms

  1. Sue

    We come to Barbados every year and have just returned from our annual holiday. we used to fly American Airlines but it became increasingly diffilcult to get connecting flights anywhere but Miami ( nightmare)We now fly Jet Blue and are thrilled with the service. We use points to purchase our tickets. I see no mention of Jet Blue in your article. What impact has the addition of this carrier had on tourism to Bim? Thanks

    Weuse points

  2. more questions....never any answers...

    Am in Bimat present on a last min trip…usually visit three times ayear

    Virgin from Manchester once a week, however you do need quite a few virgin miles for a flight and then you have to pay circa £330/£350 tax, so in effect a saving of about 50%….but now Fly Thomas Cook fly twice with a fare of approx £320, depending on what luggae you bring

    why save virginmiles so for me whilst undertamd the thoughts, but with th tax in the uk why bother. To me it is the tax that breaks a trip to Bim not always the flight costs

  3. Mr Coco

    Just got back from another vacation to Barbados. Didnt use any air miles but I had a really good time. I will tell my friends.

  4. GT

    There is very much to say about the tourism in Barbados.
    But Airline loyalty program has nothing to do with tourism.
    That program make someone choose an airline before another when they traffic the same routes. Nothing more.

  5. Adrian Loveridge

    GT, I respectfully disagree with you on this one. Barbados is further away (in distance) than many of our competing Caribbean neighbours, so the price of the airline ticket IS an issue. In the case of American/US Airways the mileage redeption requirement is often the same irrespection of where the traveller is flying from (Continental US and Canada). ie: San Francisco to Barbados as opposed to Miami to Barbados. Using MILES allows that traveller to fly to Barbados for taxes only instead of paying US$1,500 or more for a normal return economy paid ticket.

  6. gentle jim

    @Adrian Loveridge: Your argument is self defeating. Why would someone come to Barbados when they can use the same miles to go to say Hawaii?

  7. GT

    I apologize for the language but hope you understand anyway.

    If someone pays money to travel to e.g. Miami or Hawaii and for this gets free points, why use them to Barbados? Why not travel one more time to Miami or Hawaii as the person obviously prefers? Other destinations in the world manage to get paying passengers. If this is not sufficient, we will give away trips? Barbados is not enough attractive. The pluses are great beaches and wonderful climate and a boardwalk which unfortunately is a bit too short. Otherwise, it’s a disaster. Scratchy just everywhere. No proper dustbins. No proper garbage collection. Broken roads. Broken or non-existent sidewalks. Buses and other traffic driving way too fast. Joyride both daytime and nighttime. No police holding after joyride. Many houses and hotels are in ruins. Expensive hotel with standard as a one star hotel in northern Europe. Expensive restaurants with poor ingredients and bad food. Add to this a corrupt state, and you have a banana republic or a developing country if you rather prefer that term. Also, apparently the state is bankrupt.
    What is lacking is a wider view and certainly some changes in the legislation.
    Obviously this wider view is missing completely on the island.
    This fact can’t ever so many flight points change!

  8. more questions....never any answers.....

    @AL I use my air miles to travel where I want to go, and if that happens to be Barbados great off to Barbados I go….if I dont have enough airmiles, simples I buy a ticket. The point being that having a lot of air miles does not make me jump and say lets go to Barbados…it might make me say lets go somwhere and than somewhere maybe Barbados.

    The cost though of the tax that you still have to pay makes airmiles ok to collect, but if I miss a trips airmiles, its not gonna change my life, or stop me trvelling to Bim

    The cost of doing things and accomodation etc makes me think about maybe I will obtain better value for my hard earned cash than in Barbados

    Airline loyalty points are getting worth less and less all the time…if you are pinning the future prosperity of hoteliers/tourism on airmile travelers….hard times are deffo not far away

  9. Adrian Loveridge

    More questions, largely agreed but just as miles are worth less , paid tickets are costing more. I can only speak from our personal experience and between 10 and 20 per cent of all our guests use air miles to reach us. That is a significant percentage which we cannot afford to ignore. Especially as Barbados has now recorded the 21st consecutive month of long stay visitor decline and the lowest December arrivals for that month for 11 years.

  10. Repeat visitor

    Like it not, often those longterm visitors are seeking to save money which is why we have often used points to travel on. The attraction is moreover the relatively short length of time, less than five hours from canada, that it takes tomcome here which is a big attraction for those who travel a lot for their living and amass lots of points. That being said, i don’t think a traveler who hadn’t been here before would use points to get here.