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Sales volume growth for MasterCard partners

Merchants participating in MasterCard’s”Find Your Way”program posted an average sales volume growth of 4.5 percent year-on-year for 2010, despite economic challenges experienced in the tourism industry.

Now in its third year, the MasterCard partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and private businesses throughout New Providence and Paradise Island has seen a 57 percent increase in merchant participation, according to Patricio Rubalcaba, vice president, Strategic Partnership for Mastercard Worldwide. Speaking during a press conference at the British Colonial Hilton on Wednesday, Rubalcaba said that global downturns in visitor spending did not have as great an impact on merchants in the program.

“We looked at industry in general, and the Caribbean is no exception to that,[it showed]a decrease in total spend, while our program has shown an almost five percent increase in the aggregate level of our partner’s volumes,”Rubalcaba said.”So a five percent increase when total spend is decreasing translates to double digit growth year-over-year in real terms of our partner’s volumes.”

Rubalcaba also announced that Citibank will be

promoting the program in the United States. He said that this should bode well for Bahamas tourism, as Citibank has a very strong presence in the country’s largest U.S. markets, Florida and New York. He toldGuardian Businessthat Citibank will be providing advertising space online and in other advertising and promotional tools for the”Find Your Way”program.

Merchant satisfaction in the program exceeded program targets for 2010, according to Rubalcaba. Calling the program’s’Merchant

Satisfaction Index’one of the more important qualitative measures used to asses the program’s success, he said that the satisfaction level came in at 90 percent–10 percent above the 80 percent target.

“I believe this is the heart of the program,”Rubalcaba said.”If we are not delivering value to the partners, there’s no real success for the program.”He added that if merchants showed increased volume but did not feel the program was bringing value, it would suggest that market share was just being taken from cash or competitors.”The name of the game is if our partners are valueing the partnership–that’s a success story.”

The program features various exclusive offers for people using MasterCard in The Bahamas, including 10 percent off on food purchases at the Poop Deck, 10 percent off published rates at Atlantis, and a rent for three days with one day free offer from Hertz. There are 47 merchants participating in the program so far in 2011, up from 30 participants last year. Rubalcaba said that as the program grows, it will add to The Bahamas’value proposition to potential tourists.

“As we have more merchants and more locations, we have more offers, and that translates into more value,”Rubalcaba said.”More value creates a richer destination experience. This adds value to the competitiveness of the destination versus other destinations that are competing for the same consumers.”

The program offers various cash incentives to merchants participating in the program and showing the strongest volume growths year-on-year. It also features mystery shoppers who test how well merchants present the program’s branding and how adept point-of-sale associates are at telling customers about it. Training is offered where necessary to keep merchants on track with the promotion’s objectives, and cash incentives are offered through the secret shoppers for merchants performing well.

A representative of the program indicated that 60,000 program booklets were distributed at the Lynden International Pindling Airport last year, with another 250,000 program maps distributed to cruise passengers for the period.