Island offers flight rebate to keep tourists coming

Hotels on an upmarket Caribbean island have decided to offer potential customers a rebate on the cost of their flight in a bid to keep cash-strapped tourists coming.

The airline credit scheme is one of a number of quirky innovations that tourism operators across the world are introducing during a global recession.

In recent years, tiny Nevis has become a luxury hotspot, with Hollywood stars and moneyed-up CEOs choosing it as an ideal spot to get away from it all.

But with the global economy having taken a turn for a worst, the island's hoteliers are taking steps to keep business coming in. A group of Nevis top hotels have got together with the island's tourism authority to launch an airline credit scheme.

Any visitors staying for four or more nights in a participating hotel will be given a $US200 ($A306) credit on their final bill to cover part of the cost of getting to the island.

Those signing up for the initiative include the Montpelier Plantation Inn (www.montpeliernevis.com) - where Diana, Princess of Wales stayed after splitting up with Prince Charles and the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club (www.nisbetplantation.com).

Rates at the Nisbet Plantation start at $US375 ($A573) a night, and general manager Jamie Holmes argues that flight costs can be a determining factor for visitors. He also hopes that the airline credit promotion will stimulate interest in Nevis by offering better value for money in tough economic times.

"Our experience shows that travellers are more likely to be put off by the cost of the airfare than the cost of the hotel room," says Holmes.

"Since Nevis is a little further away from the main airline hubs in the Caribbean, this offer helps to offset the cost of getting to the island."

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If the economic outlook on Nevis is bad, then it's even more bleak in the UK. The British pound has plummeted in value, unemployment is soaring and the country is in a damaging recession.

And against that backdrop, tourism operators are coming up with schemes to keep business coming in. Airline Flybe (www.flybe.com) led the way by offering a Book With Confidence guarantee.

This offered customers insurance against losing their jobs after booking, with the pledge that all aspects of the holiday booked through them would be fully refunded should the purchaser be made redundant before taking the trip.

A similar pledge has been made by walking holiday company Upland Escapes (www.uplandescapes.com). Director Laura Whinney has said that anyone who decides they would prefer not to travel due to significant changes in their financial situation will be given a full refund, providing they let the company know 40 days before travel.

This applies to all holidays, whether in Britain or abroad. One hotel is taking a different tack, and is focusing on luring Australians in while the Aussie dollar has relatively high purchasing power against the pound.

The Malmaison in Oxford (www.malmaison-oxford.com) is offering Aussies the chance to come and stay where their ancestors stayed. The hotel is in Oxford's old prison, which was used as a holding pen for convicts being transported to Australia. Many of the rooms still have the original bars and doors, although the interiors are now slightly more upmarket.

In a bid to entice the Aussies back, the Malmaison is offering free breakfast and a complimentary bottle of wine over dinner to anyone showing an Australian passport. An equally eye-catching gimmick is that of Le Logis du Paradis (www.logisduparadis.com), a boutique hotel in the Cognac region of South-West France.

In a bid to keep custom coming in, the hotel is giving away a sports car to all guests (albeit temporarily) staying in its private cottage, Maison Perroquet.

Visitors booking the cottage, at a cost of 525 Euros ($A1,040) for three nights will be given free hire of a Mazda MX5 for their stay so that they can whiz around the Grand Champagne region. The rental usually costs 200 Euros ($A396) a day.

Perhaps the most audacious offer of all, however, comes from overland tour company Dragoman (www.dragoman.com). Instead of offering protection to those made redundant, the company is inviting customers to see redundancy as an opportunity.

Dragoman is offering 10 per cent off any trips booked by the end of March and taken by the end of June to anyone that has been made redundant.

The company says that its trips can be life-changing and that there's no better time to do something radically different than after redundancy.

A company spokesman said: "We've always had a significant number of people on our trips that were using redundancy money, taking a sabbatical from work or simply deciding to re-assess their lives.

"People are now increasingly looking at redundancy as an opportunity, as opposed to a threat, for their careers."

AAP

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