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TOURISM MATTERS: Rewarding customer loyalty


ADRIAN LOVERIDGE

TOURISM MATTERS: Rewarding customer loyalty

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While it may initially seem off-topic, I wonder if we could better apply the same concept to tourism. Out of the blue I took a call recently from our television network provider. A nice lady stated that as we had been customers for ten years that they were going to give us a month’s trial of a movie channel and a 20 per discount off our normally monthly subscription fee for the next six months.

Okay, the amounts involved are not huge, but it was the thought of rewarding people for remaining loyal.

The exact opposite position has been imposed by one of the leading telecommunications companies recently, who plan to levy a fee for the privilege of sending you a paper bill. Their idea of a reward is to impose more charges, rather than compensating users for what has clearly been the delivery of a substandard utility provision.

Which of these two options is more likely to retain brand loyalty? I suspect most people would not hesitate to voice their opinion. We understand the Fair Trading Commission may intervene to see whether it is even legal to unilaterally change trading terms.

Perhaps the consumer should fight back, maybe by levying a charge for endless unsolicited SMS messages sent by that company and the labour cost of deleting them. At ten cents per message received, what would be the overall monthly cost rebate?

Returning to tourism, our small hotel made a point of proffering a small gift to every returning guest. We went out of our way to ensure that it was locally made or supplied, like one of the beautiful coffee tables books produced by Miller Publishing or a piece of artwork.

Retaining an existing customer is clearly cheaper than the cost of soliciting a new one and I wonder if some involved in this and other industries tend to forget that occasionally.

Since mentioning Thomas Cook recently, they have loaded their Manchester/Barbados schedule from November 2015 until May 2016 and the good news is they have added a third weekly flight on Tuesdays.

The Sunday flight is now also non-stop, which overall dramatically increases seat capacity. I had a prolonged

40-minute telephone conversion with the airline’s head of product and customer service, who listened very patiently to my observations.

I made an impassioned plea to reconsider dropping the summer 2015 flights and I also understand efforts in this direction are being undertaken by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. London office.

It is a very fine line in balancing the protection of the legacy carrier on this route, but I think Thomas Cook does reach a market for travellers who may not travel to Barbados at higher airfares.

A “charter level” airline also maintains some form of competition and provides a critical lower cost alternative for the many overseas visitors who have second homes here.

They are willing and able to seize bargain fares and can travel, sometimes at short notice, with carry-on baggage only.

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