The Government should encourage investment in new visitor accommodation to bring more tourists to Jersey as visitor numbers to the city and arrivals still remain below pre-pandemic levels, two hospitality leaders say.
The comments from industry representatives follow the release of figures showing that visitors to the city numbered 163,315 from July 18 to 24 (the latest figures available) – a 24.1% decrease on the same dates in 2019.
And the number of air arrivals in June was 66,969 – down 21% on June 2019. Meanwhile, 23,583 passengers arrived by sea during the month, down just over a quarter.
Robert McKenzie, director of CI Travel Group and chairman of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism, Places and Attractions Group, said the loss of beds in the travel market was creating fewer links with the airport.
He said: “We have lost a number of accommodation options for visitors, the recovery from Covid 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 putting people off traveling and this leads to fewer arrivals, which has a direct impact on the city’s attendance.
“Everyone should be concerned because it affects the tourism industry, retail and hospitality.”
Mr McKenzie added: “We need to see more investment in visitor accommodation. This will take time and the government must play a role in encouraging investment. For the future of our visitor economy, we need to see investment.”
Dominic Jones, chief executive of JRestaurants, believes city visits remain lower than 2019 because people continue to work from home and fewer people travel to the Island.
“I think these types of figures will become the norm now. I can’t see an accidental bounce to make up for that extra 20% or so,” he said.
“As an industry, we will have to adjust to this new normal. We need to be more efficient. I think we’re going to have to right-size to accommodate,” he added.
Mr Jones said St Helier needed to “recognise the challenge” it faced with less traffic and believed everyone had a role to play in encouraging people to come to the town.
“The government should make investment in hotels as easy as possible to create connectivity. Although the hospitality industry is not entirely dependent on the visitor economy, it does play a role and if we fail to attract people to the Island it will have a knock-on effect,” he said.
Connor Burger, city center manager, agreed that people were still working from home and arrivals remained low, meaning fewer people were coming into the city.
However, he said he believes those coming to the city are continuing to spend.
“After talking anecdotally with some businesses, they said they’re doing pretty well. I think the relationship between visits and how much people spend is not always directly related,” he said.
“We have a number of new businesses operating in St Helier and places like Colmar, which has just opened on the high street, is consistently full,” he added.
Mr Burgher said it was “really hard to say” whether attendance figures would return to pre-pandemic levels.
“For whatever reasons we didn’t have as many people this summer, but the numbers are still up from last year and we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
“People often make the excuse that there’s nothing in the city for me, but I encourage those people to really make the effort to come in and see what’s on offer because there really is something for everyone,” he added.