I'm very pleased to have a guest post today by Adam Gardiner (for one thing, it saves me time and effort!). But Adam makes some very strong points, and also gives some constructive ideas for the way forward.
While he is critical of the current situation, that is important too. It is necessary to see what problems and failings need to be addressed by Visit Jersey, so that it does not make the same mistakes.
What I particularly like is the way in which he clearly has looked outside the Island to see what other locales are doing to boost tourism, and for models which could be suitable for Jersey, with suitable modification to fit our particular circumstances. As the cliché puts it, why re-invent the wheel? See what is successful elsewhere, and learn from that. We can be too insular in outlook.
A Guest Post from Adam Gardiner
The Failings of Jersey Tourism
Whether Jersey is expensive or not it is still the job of tourism promote the island and get results. If their view is and has been that the major obstacle to growing our visitor numbers, then why have they not publicly said just that and made proposals that would reduce some of those obstacle costs? All they seem to have done is spend our money to no effect on the one hand, and massage figures on the other, to suggest that things have been improving.
What is not so clear is whether the model being proposed will in fact be little more than a name change and the same sorry band of incumbents will simply 'move across'. That will get us nowhere in my opinion as they will have the same ingrained prejudices and likely to bring the same civil service bureaucracy and poor costing judgements with them that has blighted our Tourism for so many years.
For example: Tell me how it could possibly cost £250,000 to develop the jersey.com website?
Their failings are endless. Despite all the posturing and assurances they have never got to grips with online booking - and those few items that have managed are all through expensive 3rd party licenses and outrageous royalty payments.
Given their brief they still take Jersey out of RHS Britain in Bloom having imposed their own minima of participating parishes yet not offer the slightest financial encouragement - yet can waste £3m on a national advertising campaign suggesting that everything in the Jersey garden is lovely.
It should be noted that the RHS do not set any minima. The minima of 6 parishes was set by Tourism who essentially promote and co-ordinate the event. Jersey could have gone ahead with the 5 parishes that had confirmed their participation. Tourism simply chose to withdraw from the competition and thereby deny those Parishes who wished to take part from so doing, since its self-set minima of 6 was not reached. Make no mistake, this was a cost cutting excerise and little else. The point is, that whatever the situation, Tourism passed up an opportunity to provide Jersey with a clear promotional opportunity. A failure to perform to their remit.
They have failed time and time again to produce real tourism figures. Simply counting arrival figures without knowing the purpose of the visit or who of that number are local residents is nothing short of mismanagement; inflating the numbers to justify their jobs.
Why "Visit Jersey" needs the right approach
I think we must avoid playing towards the industry to a point where the taxpayer is effectively subsiding personal marketing budgets. Industry-led is one thing, i.e. harnessing their expertise and knowledge, but subsidising the main-players in the sector to boost their profits is quite another. That must be avoided at all costs.
The Southampton model is somewhere close to what I envisage. The formation of a company that is licensed by the City Council and whose remit is to facilitate tourism and bring forward initiatives, co-ordinate effort and dovetail the various facets and assets that collectively create appeal.
In Southampton's case, it is seen as a transport hub (airport, cruise port) and as a destination for day-trippers, alongside the conference and business market. No-one holidays in Southampton! They don't say that of course but their marketing is designed to promote those elements.
Jersey's objectives and challenges are different, but the principle is the same.the same principle that is becoming widely adopted throughout the UK and Europe where 'tourist boards' have given way to a licensed company - often more than one.
Even London abandoned it's London Tourist Board long ago and developed the London Visitor Centre - a facility where several companies rent sales space for delivering a wide range of tourist amenities - from hotels and transport to attractions in co-ordination with the more general enquiries 'self-staffed' section. Its operation falls under the office of the Mayor of London (good old Boris!) not Parliament, or a council or indeed has any 'political' overseer at all. London is expensive, but it does not stop a 150 million people from visiting the city in 2013!
More interestingly, in some parts of the UK, Visitor Information Centres have become implants into other businesses, almost a franchise if you like.
It's this we should be looking at first, and not a business plan. A business plan comes out of research and the formulating of clear objectives; cost assessments including distribution.
A new company should be looking to appoint partners in the UK - existing businesses that will and can promote Jersey - let them decide on their local marketing strategies - they know their customers best and will know what sort of Jersey will appeal to their clientele.
Kayaks paddling into the sunset and people clinking glasses of champagne on an alfresco terrace accentuates the very expensive they moan about being the obstacle to tourism. Wake up! It's horses for courses.
And regarding transport, I believe that the Airport together with the Port of St. Helier (not its harbours per se) should be regarded as strategic assets and not necessarily designed to deliver a commercial profit directly. Their ease of use and reasonable fees would encourage more travel and the economy overall be enriched.
In other words, parts of there operations should be at the taxpayers expense -subsidised if you like. I am very happy with the whole concept of the user pays, but just like say the hospital we pay without using it but comfortable that in the event we may need to its there and affordable!
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2 hours ago