President's Speech at Chamber Lunch 20th January 2016

Thursday 21 January 09:42

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman and welcome to our latest Chamber event. We are delighted to start the year with an eminent speaker, Catherine Leech, who is a board member of Visit Jersey.

It is perhaps appropriate that we begin our calendar of events for Chamber, with a Tourism flavour as we sit in a hotel that has made considerable investment into the industry, the Royal Yacht.

As many of you know, Tourism is an industry close to my heart. Not just because of my association with the Battle of Flowers as a teenager, nor simply as an attraction owner for the last 16 years, but as an island resident who acknowledges and appreciates the benefits that a thriving Tourist industry brings. Most of you will fully appreciate that our air and sea links, the quality of our hotels, bars and restaurants, and the quality of life that we appreciate, is closely linked with our Tourism industry.

In the past, Tourism has been a poor relation to other industries – comments about low wages, or “productivity” as it is called in 2016, the disinterest from the local workforce, a marked drop in visitor numbers, and a perceived lack of real interest from politicians, has led to many removing themselves from the industry. Indeed, looking at the candidate manifestos for the October 2014 elections, there was a marked lack of tourism related comments.

In 2015 Visit Jersey was formed and has become a conduit for those in the industry who wish to achieve and deliver a stronger product. There is a stronger political will and a change in perception by the public of Jersey. The four cornerstones of hospitality ….. product, price, service and perception of value are keenly practised on the island and I believe we have the ability to provide a strong offering to our visitors. There has been considerable investment in the industry in the last decade, firstly with the accommodation sector and more lately within the attractions. There is more joined up thinking within the industry, and the recent establishment of an attractions group, open to all, illustrates this.

I am not going to set out the strengths and weaknesses of the industry or my future vision for tourism in Jersey as I suspect that Catherine will be able to touch on these subjects more knowledgably but instead I would like to tell you about a recent visit that your Vice President and I paid to Jersey Archive last week. We perused the paperwork donated to the Archive by Jersey Chamber some years ago in preparation for our 250th anniversary in 2018 when we shall celebrate the fact that we are the oldest Chamber in the British Isles.

I have a confession to make! Whilst Eliot was knuckling down to the job in hand of establishing the early days of Jersey Chamber I got a little side-tracked firstly by the minutes of the early 1800s and then by the minutes of the sixties and seventies and beyond, and I would like to share some interesting facts with you.

In 1807 a series of payments were made by Jersey Chamber of Commerce to pay for a signal station at Fort Regent. The sum of £6 a month was paid regularly for a period of time to establish the signal station; this sum was equivalent to the annual wage of a domestic servant in the early nineteenth century! As the Chamber was originally set up to gather together business owners in the shipping industry, this is perhaps not too surprising, but I wonder how many of you today are aware that Jersey Chamber was instrumental in paying for the signal station at Fort Regent?

A senior politician of the day gets a mention in 1967 as he chaired the inaugural meeting of “Special Amenities licenses” and he took on the Musicians Union, who had kindly announced their pay rises for the season, seemingly in line with a wish list and not based on anything more.

In 1998 a youthful David Seymour was discussing repeat visitors and his warning “that we weren’t replacing an aging visitor with a younger generation” became prophetic a decade later.

In 1974 Chamber pioneered the idea of the Fort becoming a “Cultural and Sporting Centre,” and attempted to work with the committees of the day. These committees rapidly introduced a policy, and new regulations concerning the constitution of States committees, which did not permit the option of working with non-appointed bodies, so the minutes recorded that discussions ceased forthwith and some 42 years later the debate still continues. Perhaps not the finest example of a States working partnership!

We often get frustrated with political will and political decisions and yet we have come a long way recently. Bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce have regular access to all levels of politicians and consultations and discussions are taking place between the Hospitality Sector and the Council of Ministers, with some good results.

On this note I wish you a good meal and look forward to introducing Catherine after lunch.                                                                                                          

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