Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tourism: Success or Spin?

CTV reports this story:
"The summer sunshine has helped the Channel Island's tourism success this year. The warm weather over the school holidays has meant more people visited the islands compared with last year. Outdoor adventure businesses say it is a welcome boost following a slow start. "
A friend of mine, Adam Gardiner, comments:
"How on earth can Jersey Tourism claim the season to be a success? They wheel out a beach concessionaire as their 'proof', when she simply compares to last year and says it was better. Of course it was. Last year the weather was terrible and fewer people ventured onto the beach - this year rather better so more people on the beach. That has nothing at all to do with visitor numbers which I predict will be down overall (again) on last year and the 12 that preceded that."
"And yes, a few odd months that did see better numbers over last year - but we aren't talking thousands and in some cases even hundreds. But whichever way you look at it he trend is still downwards"
"Spin, spin, spin...form a department that has had it cosy for long enough."
He also pointed out to be that in 2012, there was a "Draft 2012 Tourism Strategy- Green Paper:" consultation, which began in July 2012 and ended on 30 September 2012. I looked it up and it was promoted by the Economic Development Minister, Alan Maclean, who wrote in his introduction to the report:
"This consultation provides everyone, who has an interest in the future for Tourism, with an opportunity to contribute. All the comments received will be considered, alongside the Oxera report and any other appropriate information, and used to help shape a new strategy for Tourism in Jersey"
One year down the line, and the strategy, apart from the creation of an aptly named "Shadow Tourism Committee" (remunerated annually at taxpayers expense), seems to have disappeared without trace. There is no follow up on the consultation. Unlike Scrutiny, which publishes submissions and final reports, it seems that Ministerial Departments set out consultations, and then conveniently forget them. It is the "Yes Minister" approach, with Alan Maclean in the role of Jim Hacker - "lots of activity but no actual achievement".
The Chamber of Commerce was critical of the approach in the Green Paper from the start:
"The green paper states that it has been recommended that the development of a new strategy for tourism should focus on growing the Staying Leisure Visitor economy. Whilst agreeing that this is a sound objective, the Committee would like to emphasise two matters:-"
1.  The "staying leisure visitor economy" should not be taken to mean the high value visitor economy. It is essential that support is given to the providers of all levels of tourist accommodation and not just to those establishments offering the higher scale of accommodation.
2. There is no mention whatsoever in the document of the day trippers who frequent the Island both from Europe, and from the UK and Guernsey, either for the retail experience or to visit tourist attractions. There is no doubt that these visitors spend money while they are on the Island thereby giving a boost to the economy and more effort should be made to attract more day trippers.
Jersey Hospitality also pointed out the statistics showed a certain decline:
"We will be carefully assessing current tourism trends and by way of an example, statistical data has confirmed the levels of reducing bed stock and visitor number patterns in the hospitality sector locally. Staying Leisure Visitors reduced to a figure of 334,420 in 2011 from 375,860 in 2007 with visitor arrivals reducing to 1,128,571 in 2011 from 1,165,345 in 2007. During the same period the number of establishments reduced to 143 in 2011 from 159 in 2007 and bed spaces reduced to 11,956 in 2011 from 13,050 in 2007. In 1978, a peak year for the visitor economy, there were 574 hotels and guest houses, 2 holiday camps and 6 campsites. In 2011 there were 68 hotels, 44 guest houses, no holiday camps, 25 self catering units, 4 camp-sites and 2 youth hostels making a total of 143 establishments. As a result of the economic and visitor downturn, yield and room rate across the accommodation sector has decreased. With this in mind one can see how vital it is to agree a tourism strategy that meets the needs for the future."
In January this year, the newly appointed head of the Shadow Board for Jersey Tourism said that "There's no quick solution to curbing the decline in visitor numbers"
The remuneration for the Chairman is £12,500 per annum. The non-executive directors will receive an honorarium of £5,000 per annum. Expenses of the Board members will also be payable.
So what are they doing for their money? In August this year, CTV reported that:
"In a bid to refocus the island's offering to tourists, Jersey's Shadow Tourism Board plans to get Jersey back on track. They're asking islanders to come up with ideas to promote the island's treasures which could ultimately boost visitor numbers."
As one comment put it:
"Jersey's Shadow Tourism Board asks islanders to do their job for them, and come up with a way to lure in more tourists."

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