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The fuTure of… Tourism

Tourism in Jersey W

Robert Parker gives his forthright views on the tourist industry in Jersey, its shortcomings, and the challenges it needs to face if it is to flourish

HAT IS the current state of tourism in Jersey? The industry in Jersey is going through a

particularly difficult time. The States has cut the tourism budget at the time that a big new supply of rooms has come onto the market. The corporate market has remained reasonably constant – it dropped off in 2009 and though it came up again in 2010, it has not yet returned to its previous levels. Corporate business underpins the industry

at the top end of the market, and so it’s not surprising that our yields have been under pressure. The fight for business here has reduced prices and had a cascade effect down to properties at the lower levels. Everyone has had to cut their prices. With less supply, Jersey would be weathering this recent recession much better, and be in a much stronger position than we are at the moment – and our profitability would not be so fragile. The result of all this is we are achieving

the same yields per person per room that we were 10 years ago. The cutbacks in the States tourism budget means most of Jersey’s marketing is now aimed at the summer season, and we have also seen the loss of attractions, such as the closure by Jersey Heritage of its sites in winter.

40 April/May 2011

What do you think is to blame for this? Part of this is down to the recession, but a large part is down to States decisions in the past. The increase in supply is mainly related to the development on the Waterfront, which has received an indirect States subsidy approaching eight figures. When they were looking at the Waterfront hotel, they expected it would enhance the number of bed-nights in the corporate market, but this has not been the case. There has been a lack of coherent strategy.

To indirectly subsidise more supply into the market when the market itself didn’t believe it was realistic, then at the same time to reduce the budget for tourism, which is the main conduit for developing demand, was not the cleverest strategic decision to be made. At the moment, what we’re seeing

appears to be a holding operation rather than a real strategy for the future.

What is good about the industry and what needs to be put right? The product Jersey has to offer is, in the main, excellent, and we still have very good tourism business for around five months of the year. There has to be an acceptance that we have to tackle demand, or reduce the supply, or a combination of both. Increasing demand and therefore our yields throughout the year

would underpin the capacity of available rooms. Failing that, we should cut the supply of beds at the top end. The island has to make a decision. Does it

want to really grow tourism or does it want a tourism industry that is basically a support for the finance industry? It has to be a strategic decision by the States to extend the tourism season. The idea that we will expand the corporate market to support the industry isn’t plausible. In marketing, a lot of improvements have been made in the last few years but we are still suffering from the level of cutbacks – at present, if we wanted to re-launch the island, we wouldn’t have a sufficient budget to be able to do it. We need to be more commercial in supporting tourism and really develop it throughout the year. This is related to the products on offer apart from the hotels. The common complaint is that there’s less to do in the winter, and so closing down the heritage sites has not been the best thing from the industry’s point of view. On a positive front, Jersey is a beautiful

island, it is very safe, it has fantastic restaurants, it has a lot going for it, but strategy clearly needs a rethink. n

ROBERT PARKER is Chairman of the Hotel de France in Jersey

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