How many tourists use Air Miles to travel to Barbados? We should know!

Barbados Grantley Airport Tarmac

Adrian Loveridge - tourism expert, hotel owner

Adrian Loveridge – tourism expert, hotel owner

Way back in 2001 we registered a business name and established a website domain under the trading title of MILESCloser.

 The idea then, which still has not changed, was to target the hundreds of millions of frequent flyer members who largely use their accumulated miles on vacation or holiday travel.

One of the impediments to growing the United States market especially, has been the reality that because we are a little further away from key source market cities. Inevitably airfares are often more expensive, resulting in the overall cost of the ‘vacation’ making it more difficult when competing with other destinations.

This is especially true with non-gateway departure points. A good example is Minneapolis-St. Paul to Barbados where the current cheapest bookable fare online in October or early November is US$761 economy return. For the same dates the miles required are just 25,000 and US$60.60 in taxes.

So by getting rid of the perceived ‘high’ airfare, we then only have to compete on accommodation options.

Gone are the days when you only earned miles by flying. In fact it is now almost the entire opposite. Most miles are gained by non-airline purchases.

The first major airline loyalty programme, American AAdvantage now boasts over 1,000 partners who offer miles simply by selecting a method of payment.

Among these are financial institutions who offer huge mileage incentives to sign-up with particular brand name credit cards, which in many cases grant sufficient miles on application for the first flight, without any or a very limited level of purchasing.

By selectively using a miles earning credit card to pay every day bills, it is surprising just how quickly the numbers mount. Personally I have not bought an airline ticket for myself for some time, but have currently amassed nearly 600,000 miles. 

As pointed out several times before, miles break down the geographical distance barriers and enable us to market on a level playing field. Already with the changes rapidly taking place in our national marketing agency (BTMI) in the USA we are starting to see positive improvements in numbers. A spectacular coup was convincing what is perceived as a low cost carrier, JetBlue, to introduce their new MINT service to Barbados later this year. As their website states this premium service offers ‘fully flat seats, fresh dining options and revitalising amenities’.

According to media releases MINT was originally intended for trans-continental long haul services. To have this ‘product’ as a travelling alternative augurs well for our first and business class market, who are both willing and able to pay considerably more.

I am sure too, that it will prove a catalyst for other carriers to upgrade existing services, just to stay competitive. Hopefully, bookings will be monitored to evaluate what percentage of travellers upgrading their seats to MINT, by redeeming their miles to do so.

There has been recent discussion about vastly improving data collection captured on the landing cards. A simple tick box, asking ‘did you travel to Barbados on miles?’ might just reinforce my point and perhaps be a revelation for our tourism planners.

4 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Barbados, Barbados Tourism

4 responses to “How many tourists use Air Miles to travel to Barbados? We should know!

  1. SB

    Firstly you have to laugh. A tick box for “did you travel by Airmiles?” The landing card – actually a flimsy piece of paper – is only of concern because it contains print-through chemical inks – known carcinogens. Also the data is just about readable – I mean what do they do with the slips – chuck ’em in a box behind the immigration desks, or scan them into a huge database. They are not suitable for the latter. I digress.

    The issue with Airmiles is that airlines such as BA now use Avios – whatever they are. BA is about to abandon administration for these for its Exec Club members – handing this over to Avios itself. The issue for BA – and a monumental time-waster – is keeping members’ Avios accounts up-to-date with non-airline purchases.

    Avios can be earned by Avios members and BA Exec Club members (two soon to be entirely independent entities) by flying with BA, but also by purchasing from BA ‘partners’ John Lewis, Tescos, Shell, etc., etc. However for every single purchase of non-airline products the Avios earned have to be applied for OFFLINE – by sending in a home-printed form with respective receipts to BA by post!!! You’d have thought that they’d have automated this by now.

    In the above scenario BA’s Avios can expire if not topped-up or used within three years. After that they are cancelled – and members don’t get them back – and this affects all membership tiers even Gold Exec Club members. The scandal of this is that applications for ‘missing’ Avios earned from non-airline purchases might still be sitting in a pile of mail waiting to be processed. By the time such Avios are credited to the account that account might well have been deleted.

    The whole issue with Airmiles, Avios, whatever is that they are marketed as though the airlines really really want to reward flyers with their loyalty. In actuality the airline industry is awash with the damn things and airlines really really do NOT want to give you any rewards – period.

  2. Anita

    I use trublue air miles to fly to Barbados. I fly jet blue out of NY and use my air miles to fly in the high season. My American express jet blue card gives me miles from purchases. My only complaint is that many Bajan companies do not take American express. I can use my card at massy stores, trimart, Pricesmart but not at courts, Jordan’s, cost u less etc. flying to Barbados is more expensive than flying say to Dominican, Mexico etc, must frequent flyer miles do help. Barbados needs to partner with more airlines to offer vacation packages with bonus miles or other incentives. I think jet blues program is a good one.

  3. Scandinavian

    Paying by money or airmiles doesn’t make anyone choose Barbados more than other destinations. The clue is how to get Barbados attractive enough so that travellers choose it before other destinations. It should also be so attractive that people come back, not coming once and decide never to return (how it very often is today).

    Barbados is a small Island and therefore has a limit on how many tourist it can house. Barbados way forward should be as an exclusive Island with nice beaches and restaurants and not the mass tourism and all inclusive or self catering. I also think that, in the long run, the cruising tourism is not the way forward but perhaps it could be a way to attract some one to book a week or two on the Island.

    Unfortunately no one seems to understand the importance of things outside the hotels. The beaches are full with garbage the parking spots are full with garbage everywhere on the Island there is garbage. The roads are a disaster, the parking places the same, the hotels are expensive with a standard that are very poor. The sidewalks are so narrow and the traffic drives so fast that the only conclusion can be that the Island are missing a Police force.

    The food is not so bad at the restaurants but the restaurants themselves looks like…
    Bridgetown looks anything but exclusive and the shops looks the same.

    Take a look at “Puerto Banus” in Spain and you understand how I think Barbados future should look like.

    I could make my list very long and I have a lot ideas on how to make the Island much more attractive and competetive compared to other alternatives in the world.

    This is the thoughts from a Scandinavian who really loves Barbados.

  4. yatinkiteasy

    Perhaps the Govt should put Sanitation under the Head of Tourism Ministry…no joke..the tourists that come here are appalled at the amount of garbage left lying around everywhere. If the same minister that wants to increase our tourism had the responsibility for keeping the place clean, we might see a difference…until then , nothing will change.