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The fuTure of… TourIsm

Tourism in Guernsey I

Derek Coates tells what he thinks of the Guernsey tourist industry, its weaknesses, and what needs to be done to raise the island’s profile

N THIS new series of articles in, we ask leading figures in the Channel Islands exactly how they think their industry is performing, its

strengths and its weaknesses, and what the future might hold. In this first edition, we tackle the often-thorny subject of tourism. The Jersey perspective can be found on page 40, but here we have Derek Coates’s take on Guernsey.

In your opinion, what is the current state of tourism in Guernsey? If we look at tourism data for the last few years, it shows that there has really been no significant change in visitor numbers – other than a slight weakening of demand due to the recession and the worsening economic outlook. This hasn’t, perhaps rather surprisingly, been offset by the weaker pound/euro rates as one might have expected. With a fall from 1.45 Euros to the pound to the current 1.18 Euros, one could easily have expected a much greater natural shift towards staying within the sterling currency area, and therefore causing a potential rise in visitors. January and February are still appalling

months for general tourism in Guernsey, but they hold up much better for business traffic, which we are targeting more and more with our four-star offerings

38 April/May 2011

Why do you think tourism is generally flat? The marketing of Guernsey is still a little in the dark ages and could probably do with a strategic re-evaluation if we are to meet the challenges in what will be difficult years ahead. Measurable success parameters are the most persuasive way to boost investor confidence in our industry. While the tourism marketing budget was

a decent £2.8 million in 2010, how effectively that is spent is another matter. As far as I can tell it doesn’t have measurable results other than the number of online clicks and brochures sent out. This data has no value at all unless it is linked back to sales. Jersey has a hotels registration system that should permit tracking back on marketing activities to measure effectiveness, and in my view Guernsey should also have a registration system. Previous customers are, after all, the best source of future visits. There is probably a need for a more sophisticated direct marketing approach, but the skill base may just not be there at the moment in the tourism department.

What is good about the industry, and what needs to be put right? If we compare Jersey and Guernsey, it seems to me that Jersey is fortunate, in that with a historically more successful tourism industry, it has invested in more visitor attractions with year-round appeal. The Durrell Centre – or

Jersey Zoo as I still think of it – is a real treasure that Jersey can be proud of. But Guernsey also has it’s own ‘natural theme parks’ called Herm, Sark and Alderney. These are tourism assets that money just can’t buy. We don’t make nearly enough of our sister islands which have immense appeal to the growing number of visitors who don’t want man-made attractions. We now live in a digital age, so that

even small visitor economies like Guernsey can become visible to the wider world. I suspect that almost no one would now go on holiday without first Googling the destination, the hotels and the airfares before making a decision. This requires the right kind of websites fully optimised for SEO and with the right kind of marketing to drive people to the sites. But that requires a very clear and visionary, integrated communication strategy. Some of the money being spent on below-

average press advertising could be redirected to linked events that would start to engender better rankings for Guernsey on the all- important search engines. This could also be linked to a better PR strategy. But on a positive note, Guernsey and

her islands have all the natural ingredients to be a world-beating tourism success. We just need to let the world know that we are here and what good things we have to offer. n

DEREK COATES is Chairman of Blue Islands airline

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