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Statement given by the President of the Committee for Economic Development

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Wednesday 27 February 2019

Tourism Strategy

Sir,

A buoyant tourism sector means our overall economy benefits.

To increase visitor numbers, the current Tourism Strategic Plan 2015-2025 was developed, in collaboration with industry. Published in 2015, it was endorsed by the then Committee for Economic Development in 2016.

In November 2016, as part of the Island Development Plan debate, a resolution was passed to review the Plan and come back to the Assembly with a Policy Letter before the end of 2018.

In June 2017, however, the Assembly passed another resolution requiring Policy & Resources to undertake a review of sea and air links infrastructure.

As the recommendations of the review may fundamentally alter the nature of our visitor market, the review of the tourism strategy was put on hold until we saw the recommendations and outcomes of P&R's review. To the disappointment of the Committee, we have not yet seen that review.

So whilst we are yet unable to fulfil our obligation and present a review, it does not mean that nothing has been done. Far from it.

Our visitor economy is becoming stronger:

Of course, some in the sector have challenges, and we must assist - whether it is the ability to recruit and retain off-island staff, or in relation to planning and land use issues.

But progress over 2018 means there is increased confidence.

A 2017 review of our tourism product was undertaken by PwC on behalf of the previous Committee. The findings were presented at the Industry Seminar in autumn, were shared with industry, and are on the States' website.

This review enables us to look at how we maintain and grow our existing tourism market. It has helped to inform the work of the Seafront Enhancement Area working party and to develop thinking on new initiatives, such as promoting our Victor Hugo heritage.

We continue to implement the tourism strategy - adapting it to take account of emerging opportunities such as the Potato Peel Pie film; and the need to deal with challenges that are beyond our control, such as bad weather and Brexit.

2018 saw a difficult start to the year due to unusually bad weather. However during the year performance improved and final total visitor numbers including cruise and visiting yachtsmen were 420,149, a 0.2% increase on 2017. Total staying visitors was just about on a par with 2017 - which was the highest since 2012 - although visitors staying in commercial accommodation was down by 1%.

The figures should be seen in the long-term context. Tourism has seen a significant decline in visitor numbers since the heydays of the 1960's and 70's - the end of the £10 British Rail ticket from anywhere in the UK, the advent of package holidays in the 1970's and then Low Cost Carriers in the early 1990's, being the main factors  

The tourism strategy was the first long term tourism strategy, and it stated the industry's growth aims. Although total visitor numbers including cruise visitors in 2018 did increase slightly over 2017, they have declined over the past few years, due to a drop off in day visitors.

It is important to understand the growth achieved in the value generating staying leisure visitors since 2014 - visitors that stay for longer periods in paid for accommodation.

Total staying leisure visitors in 2018 were 142,000 (4%) higher than they were in 2014, and in fact 10% higher than they were in 2013.

The day visitor market however has suffered the most. The loss of the fast ferry double rotations to the UK, and increasing air fares the main contributing factor to a 33,000 (42%) drop in day visit numbers since 2014.

Cruise liner visitors are essentially day visitors, and are visitors we wish to return for longer stays. The cruise liner market has increased by nearly 14,000 visitors (13%) since 2014, thus helping to plug the sea and air day visitor gap, and will provide the main opportunity to grow the day visit market again

The focus of the tourism strategy will be to continue to encourage further growth in high value staying leisure visitors, and in the cruise liner day visitor market.

The performance, reliability and resilience of our sea and air links has a real impact on visitor numbers.

For that reason the Committee has prioritised developing new and sustainable sea and air links to the island, and in June 2018 recommended the introduction of an open skies regime on all but the lifeline routes.

The objective was to provide greater freedom and flexibility for airline operators to service new routes to Guernsey from the UK, providing the Guernsey resident, and both the leisure and the business visitor to Guernsey, with greater choice of destinations and departure points.

Last week the Committee was pleased to announce the launch of a summer season daily trial service to and from Heathrow operated by Flybe.

The mid-afternoon timing of the schedule offers good international connectivity. The service also offers interlining opportunities with many of Flybe's code share partners who have agreed to interlining arrangements on the route.

This is a significant development in the achievement of our stated key objective to secure international connectivity for Guernsey through a major international hub.

Over the past six months, the Committee has announced the launch of six new scheduled routes to the UK - to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the first scheduled routes to Scotland for many years, and to Liverpool, Southampton, Bournemouth and Newquay.

The Committee has also announced the launch by Sunair of a new 2019 charter route from Groningen in the Netherlands; and an additional charter from Dusseldorf, operated by Eurowings.

In addition, the Committee has strived to develop stronger sea links.

We are working with Condor to see how we can get the best possible service for Guernsey, and the 2019 schedule improves on that of 2018.

Last year Manche Iles Express introduced a limited 2018 summer season inter-island schedule. Additional services were provided by virtue of a joint underwrite by Economic Development and our counterparts in Jersey. However the level of demand for the service did not justify further investment by the States.

However over the summer there will again be inter-island passenger services between Guernsey and Jersey, operated by Manche-Iles Express, on a commercial basis.

Between April and October there will be 60 return sailings - five more than last year's initial timetable. The majority of these sailings will enable Jersey to Guernsey day trips, but there are also a number of opportunities for Guernsey to Jersey day trips.

In addition to enhanced connectivity to support tourism, there has been ongoing commercial investment made in the island's product offering.

For example there has been significant investment and development of Oatlands Village, at the Hougue de Pommier Hotel, the Imperial Hotel, the Peninsula Hotel and the St Pier Park Hotel. We have also seen the opening of the Gin Distillery at the Bella Luce Hotel.

Some notable new tourist accommodation planning permissions have been granted namely to treat trailer caravans in the same way as motor homes at registered sites and for the opening of a glamping site. The Committee has directed officers to consider ways in which the current planning policies could be made more flexible for the change of use of visitor accommodation.

Officers have engaged with industry to gain their views and have consulted with the DPA to understand the process necessary to make any desired changes. That work will be part of the formal review of the tourism strategy in due course, and also of the Committee's red tape review.

Sir, the cruise industry is an important part of Guernsey's visitor economy. Last year 89 cruise ships visited the island, including seven inaugural cruise ships, and just over 118,000 cruise passengers came ashore.

It is vital that we continue to invest in and develop the cruise 'day visit' market, including enticing more passengers to come ashore, and encourage them to come back to the island for a longer break or holiday.

Visit Guernsey's campaigns have been successful in helping to increase the number of return cruise visitors, with nearly 3% of returning visitors having visited the island on a cruise an increase from 0.5% four years ago.

This work over the past year has again been acknowledged and endorsed by the leading international cruise recommendation site Cruise Critic. For the third time in as many years Guernsey has been awarded the Cruise Critic Award for the Best Port of Call in the UK.

This is a big endorsement of the effort put in by our Visit Guernsey Cruise welcome team and their Harbour and Environment & Infrastructure colleagues.

In 2018 Visit Guernsey undertook a significant amount of activity to help raise the awareness of Guernsey as a holiday destination. Much of this capitalised on the launch of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film.

Activity included TV and cinema advertising campaigns, a dedicated microsite and digital campaign, the UK and Guernsey movie premiers, joint promotions with Studio Canal, Netflix Random House and major UK brands, and significant activity in the UK, US, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

As the promotion on the back of the film did not kick off until the beginning of Q2 2018, traditionally the tail end of the travel industry's core promotional period, the real impact of the activity surrounding the movie is not expected until this year.

One of Guernsey's unique offers is the significant footprint left by Victor Hugo. Visit Guernsey has been working with Hauteville House and the Victor Hugo estate to promote the reopening of Hauteville House on 6 April following major renovation work. A new dedicated Victor Hugo microsite will be launched to support this.

The new Occupation Trail and Passport will be launched soon, and Visit Guernsey continues to work with Festung Guernsey on the planned 'Bunker Day' in June, and other initiatives that are part of the Atlantic Wall organisation activities. Visit Guernsey is already working with Jersey and Normandy on the 2020 celebration of the 75th anniversary of Liberation.

As well as heritage, the Committee is also working on blue economy tourism, green tourism, medical tourism, art tourism and sports tourism opportunities and last week a national press and digital campaign - with TV historian Dan Snow - was announced.

Visit Guernsey's work has been recognised by two nominations in the UK National Travel Marketing Awards. One for the Potato Peel Pie Society Microsite, in partnership with local Digital Agency TPA; and one for the Potato Peel Pie PR campaign with agency partner Lotus.

I hope the Assembly can support the tourism sector and the work done to promote our island.

Our tourism sector has renewed confidence and investment.

Let's get behind it on social media and encourage that - and sell Guernsey.

Let's show potential visitors that we want them to come here.

There is much for us to be positive about and to support.

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