‘Investment essential’ as tourism falls below 2019 levels

THE Government needs to encourage investment in new visitor accommodation to bring more tourists to Jersey as the city’s attendance and arrival numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels, say two hospitality leaders.

Industry officials’ comments follow the release of data showing that from July 18-24 (the latest figures available) there were 163,315 visitors in the city – down 24.1% from the same data in 2019.

And the number of air arrivals was 66,969 in June – down 21% from June 2019. Meanwhile, 23,583 passengers arrived by sea during the month, down by just over a quarter.

Robert Mackenzie, director of CI Travel Group and chairman of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce Tourism, Venues and Attractions Group, said the loss of beds in the tourism market is leading to fewer airport connections.

He said: “We have lost numerous visitor accommodation options, the Covid recovery is still ongoing, you now need a passport to travel from France to Jersey, there have been significant problems with airlines and airports which is discouraging people from travelling, and that leads to fewer arrivals, which has a direct impact on footfall.

“Everyone should be concerned because it’s affecting the tourism industry, retail and hospitality.”

Mr Mackenzie added: “We need to invest more in visitor accommodation. This will take time and the government has a role to play in stimulating investment. We must see investments for the future of our visitor economy.’

Dominic Jones, chief executive of JPRestaurants, believes visitor numbers to the city will remain lower than in 2019 as people continue to work from home and fewer people travel to the island.

“I think these types of characters are becoming the new normal now. I can’t think of a random upleg that accounts for that extra 20% or so,” he said.

“As an industry, we need to adapt to this new normal. We have to become more efficient. I think we need to scale to the right size to fit in,” he added.

Mr Jones said St Helier needed to “recognize the challenge” it faced with lower attendance and believed everyone had a role to play in encouraging people into the city.

“The government needs to make investing in hotels as easy as possible to create connectivity. The hospitality industry, while not entirely dependent on the visitor economy, does play a role and if we can’t get people to the island there will be a knock-on effect,” he said.

City center manager Connor Burgher agreed that people continued to work from home and arrivals remained low, meaning fewer people came to the city.

However, he said he believed those who came to town would continue to spend.

“After speaking anecdotally to a few companies, they’ve said they’re doing pretty well. I think the relationship between attendance and people’s spending doesn’t always correlate directly,” he said.

“We have opened a number of new stores in St Helier and places like Colmar, which has just opened on the high street, are constantly packed,” he added.

Mr Burgher said it was “really hard to say” whether attendance would return to pre-pandemic levels.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t have that many people this summer but the numbers are still higher than last year and it’s going in the right direction,” he said.

“People often make the excuse that there’s nothing in town for me, but I encourage those people to really make the effort to come and see what’s on offer because there really is something for everyone,” he added he added.

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