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I am frequently surprised and occasionally humbled by some of the people who read this column. Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, I had a call from a senior executive of Discover Financial Services, the United States’ third largest credit card issuer based Illinois, and which has a quoted 47 million card holders.
He had been following some of our tourism initiatives and wanted to see how we could partner to help increase their brand awareness and acceptance on Barbados. Of all our major markets, the US has for the last decade been one of the most challenging. Until the 2014 figures are published the industry at large can only speculate about any real recovery last year.
But what we do know though is that 2013 recorded the lowest number (120 584) of long-stage American visitors over the past 11 years. So clearly, there is work to be done and I am sure with the recent restructuring that has taken place, we will start to witness increased numbers in the not too distant future, especially we
wish to sustain any added airlift.
So what is finally being negotiated with Discover is a win-win scenario that will hopefully achieve their objective, while at the same time help to raise our destination visibility in the US market, again at minimal cost.
With help from the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), the newly-branded re-Discover Discover lunch and dinner voucher will be mainly distributed from the BTMI office in the arrivals hall of Grantley Adams International Airport. As we know, the vast majority of passengers have to pass this office after clearing Immigration, baggage collection and before clearing Customs. This will be critical to the possible success of the promotion.
Of course, we will continue to mail additional vouchers from online requests where a name, address in Barbados (for example hotel, villa, apartment, etc) and arrival date is supplied.
To make the promotion more enticing, BTMI will assist with return flights, one of our leading resorts has already agreed to supply a week’s accommodation, a leading car rental company will provide a vehicle and there will be a submarine adventure for the two lucky winners.
To qualify for entry into the competition, the visitor will have to use their Discover card as the method of payment at any of the 40 participating restaurants. Those partners who do not currently accept Discover have a clear cost-free option to drive a tangible increase in business without any financial outlay, over and above the normal merchant acceptance fee.
What I found fascinating is that, according Discover’s website, Discover card members spend on average more than 35 per cent more on their cards than the existing market leaders Visa and MasterCard. The reason or logic behind this statistic should also be analysed to see what, if any, lessons can be learnt from it.
This is another example of how the private and public sector can work together in the common good without spending a fortune, and I offer my sincere thanks to all for supporting this promotion.