Tourism Matters: The falling value of Sterling and British visitors

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Adrian Loveridge has spent 52 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism. www.re-discover.com

By Adrian Loveridge

What practical measures could we implement to help negate the consequence of the falling value of Sterling and make Barbados more affordable for our existing and potential British visitors?

My thoughts are that we have to think way beyond the very basics, like flights and accommodation and look for smart partnerships which will bring the overall cost of the holiday down significantly.

For our locally based tourism providers, it is perhaps easy to forget that for most of our arriving passengers, their overall experience starts with a journey to the airport by car or train, and often includes pre or post flight hotel accommodation and long-term parking.

These, and other areas like preferential currency exchange and the choice of how to pay for these services could, through alliances, provide significant savings for our visitors.

By negotiating volume rates with specific hotels and parking options, tying this in with a named credit or debit card which offers cash back, is a win-win option.

Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester airports are incredibly well served by trains and with one of the various RailCards available for a small annual fee, savings of over 30 percent for adults and 60 percent for children. By working with existing highly successful online marketing companies like Groupon, TopCashBack and Loco2, further substantial savings are possible, reducing the overall bottom line expense.

In 2014, Groupon boasted they had over 48 million active customers across 48 countries spending more than US$7.6 billion during that year.

TopCashBack partners with over 4,000 merchants where registered users can obtain significant discounts in the way of returning cash rewards on everyday purchases across a huge range of goods and services.

Loco2, now a subsidiary of the French railway giant, voyages-SNCF, is an integrated booking engine, incorporating train franchises throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, supplying the most competitive fares and journey options. They are one of the few such entities to offer an introductory bonus, which allows recommending the companies and new users to receive a meaningful discount on their first ticket purchase.

Naturally the airfare is one of the largest component costs of the holiday and our more independent travellers are increasingly ‘shopping around’ for more competitive choices by using websites like Google Flights which gives all the options and a very useful ‘price grid’ which helps identify particular days of travel which are less expensive.

Again, by choosing to link through TopCashBack, both Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook Airlines offer a rebate on total ticket price.

While we may remain a largely tour operator driven destination that has a small number of brand name properties, the larger hotel groups worldwide are aggressively concentrating on attracting online direct bookings by guaranteeing the lowest possible room rate. They have found that this increases guest loyalty while reducing the dependency on intermediate booking agencies and the substantial commission they extract.

This trend will almost certainly continue, with the more innovative hotel groups further strengthening that brand allegiance by perhaps offering ‘free night’ stays, to be taken at a later date based on completed stays.

Of course, there is a great deal more that ‘we’ can do, but the longer we delay, the risk is that our competitors will inevitably seize the moment.

 

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