By Adrian Loveridge
While it is probably most hotelier’s dream to fill their property every night of the year at published rack rates, the reality is quite different and that is where marketing creativity becomes even more crucial.
Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 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 issues
Our larger hotels are predominately tour operator-dependent but that comes at a price, being forced to contract rates well below direct booking room prices that may appear on their websites.
One alternative is to look for smart partnerships with established global entities like Luxury Link Inc.
Quoting verbatim from their own website: “With more than half-million targeted, sophisticated travellers a month, the Luxury Link Travel Group is the only online travel company focused on matching consumers with the right hotel through marketing, promotions and cross-channel exposure. This unique business model provides lead generation, advertising, branding and distribution services to luxury and upscale hotels, cruise lines, tour companies and villas around the world.”
As someone who has used their services on several occasions, the attraction is obvious. A guaranteed high standard of hotel, four or five star at an overall price, always well below published rates and usually a number of ‘extras’ included.
Up to five of our hotels on Barbados are either currently or have been featured by Luxury Link. To demonstrate the potential savings it can offer the consumer, let us use one of the west coast four-star hotels as an example.
Comparing the same five night stay in June, a junior suite with a pool or garden view, booked directly would cost US$2,226.25, including daily buffet breakfast, all taxes for two persons.
Luxury Link offers two booking options. If your dates are flexible, you can bid by auction with a price as low as US$1,299, which is non-refundable. Or a ‘buy now’ alternative for US$1,559, which allows original confirmed booking dates to be changed.
Both carry a booking fee of US$40.
With this particular offer the Luxury Link bonus includes dinner for two on one night with champagne included.
The travel company features over 1,200 hotels across the world, including major luxury brands like Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Oberoi, Destination Resorts, Orient-Express and Preferred, plus many independently owned options.
Airfare is not included, thus making this type of package the perfect match for those using frequent flyer miles to reach the location.
With a quoted “industry-topping 50 per cent repeat buyer rate” it is clear that the concept works for the majority of their clients, both in terms of the purchaser and supplier. Luxury Link describes its coveted demographics as an “online travel audience (which) averages 45 years in age and US$175,000 in annual income”; clearly a very desirable target market for Barbados.
2013 recorded the lowest number of long stay visitors (508,520) for any of the last 11 consecutive years. With further reduced airlift in 2014, it will become even more challenging to augment arrival numbers. Therefore it is absolutely critical that ‘we’ grow both average duration of stay and net accommodation revenue.
With Luxury Link recently establishing an enhanced presence in the United Kingdom, we now have an improved opportunity in that market.