President's Speech February 2017 Lunch

Wednesday 8 February 14:00

It is perhaps fitting that I stand here, after a week of travel, visiting attractions in the UK and connecting with others in the UK tourism industry, that we are today discussing both challenges and opportunities for this sector.

It is perhaps fitting that I stand here, after a week of travel, visiting attractions in the UK and connecting with others in the UK tourism industry, that we are today discussing both challenges and opportunities for this sector.

Dr Lesley Dickie, the CEO of Durrell will talk to you after lunch on the subject of “How could our tourism and hospitality organisations be better supported by local government policy?” What an apt subject, given the recent launch of the consultation and launch of the “Reform of the Jersey Tourism law” which invites comments and proposes a revamp of the existing law.

We live on an island 9 miles by 5, and with a population of just over 100,000. Compare this with the private owners of another zoo whom I had the pleasure of meeting last week. This zoo is located six miles outside Bristol city centre. Bristol has five times the population of Jersey and can also draw on the surrounding areas so have a catchment almost ten times that of Durrell. They charge £18 per adult entry to the zoo.

On average, entry costs to Jersey attractions run around 30% lower than comparative U.K. attractions, but wages as a percentage of turnover run 10-15% higher. Add to this the higher cost of food, importation and travel costs, logistics and higher costs of services, and limited ability to grow your customer base, it is apparent that attractions need to work much harder on the island to sustain and grow their businesses.

Let's take this one step further and talk about our planning charges! An attraction in Jersey wishes to build an enclosure, display area or other non-agricultural, non-residential building. Bristol will charge approximately £5.13 per square metre, Jersey charges £11.04! Times that by a few thousand square metres and the cost of applying for planning permission in Jersey, is prohibitive. This is before you get to building control and whilst I can only use our own recent build of an indoor play area as an example, I am delighted to let you know that our customers sit in a building with the equivalent of a Hof Haus air pressure rating! One of the best in the world (irony).

So, whilst the review of our Jersey Tourism law is taking place perhaps we should look at the cost of investing in the tourism industry, the barrier this creates to growth and add this to a tourism consultation?

Let’s have a little “outside the box” thinking? Mobile log cabins, used in the U.K., support and add to the tourism self-catering offering the length and breadth of Britain. Ready-made kit solutions cost between £20,000 and £50,000 for the structure and a flat mobile home planning fee is applied, a fraction of a new build house. What a great addition to holiday accommodation this would be in Jersey. The sunniest place in the British Isles, where ironically our self-catering currently requires as much insulation as a modern home, and amazingly these kits, often used in areas of outstanding natural beauty, are made in Norway and Finland!

So attractions have cheaper prices, higher wages, higher fixed costs, planning fees double that of the UK and a plethora of other hoops. We will also soon have a planned liquid waste charge that exceeds most other jurisdictions and a huge issue with staffing, due to licensing restrictions.

For those of you nostalgic for Fort Regent, the Fantastic Tropical Gardens and the Shire Horse Farm, attractions that closed or wound down in the 1990’s take a look at the hard statistics. In the late 1990’s staying leisure visitors were a whopping 45% higher than they are today. 45% more tourists looking for entertainment, food and accommodation.

I won't continue on the subject of tourism as we will hear more from our guest speaker after lunch but I hope I have given you some interesting facts and figures with which to set the scene.

I couldn't finish my welcome without a quick mention on States reform.

After an intensive week of debate, a decision has been reached. We will have six electoral districts and 48 States members. It is a shame that it’s taken government more than 16 years to get even close to the Clothier reform recommendations of 42 or 44 States members. However, while reform remains in the hands of politicians, change will remain an unlikely bedfellow.  Turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind!

I for one would like to see a stronger pool of candidates, paid more and fewer of them.

Something to debate over lunch!

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