Mixed fortunes for Jersey’s hoteliers

HOTELIERS are painting a mixed picture of the Island’s tourism season, with some businesses running near capacity while others are not opening their doors at all.

St Brelade's Bay Hotel (31419646)
St Brelade's Bay Hotel (31419646)

Some of those in the industry had hoped that a lack of confidence among prospective international travellers would drive more UK residents to the Island.

Although some businesses have reported high occupancy rates, others have seen their traditional customers more inclined to stay at home.

St Brelade’s Bay Hotel is currently running at around 90% occupancy and said it could be fully booked next month.

Stewart Fairweather, duty manager, said: ‘There are a lot of regular visitors who have been coming here for the past 30 or 40 years but did not get a chance to come here last year, so they are here now.

‘The change in the rules for single-jabbed people has helped because if people are here for four or five days, then they do not mind waiting a few hours in their hotel room for their test result to come through.

‘It is UK guests mostly but there are also a few local residents who are coming here for one- or two-night stays. June and July have been busy but for August and September we have very limited space and we will be nearing 100% occupancy if we can sell the little one- or two-night gaps in between the longer stays.’

Mr Fairweather added that his hotel had noticed a higher number of first-time Jersey visitors than in previous seasons.

‘They would have normally gone to places like Portugal and Spain. A lot of people in the UK had not even heard of Jersey until this year but there was a big push to promote the Island there,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Tom Burford, general manager of L’Horizon Beach Hotel & Spa, said he was expecting 2021 to be a profitable year.

He said: ‘We are generally trading very well at the moment. In June we only hit 57% occupancy but it was still a profitable month for us. For July we are looking at 70% occupancy and if we do not hit 85% in August, I will be astounded.

‘During the brief period last year when people were able to fly over we picked up quite a lot of new customers. We are finding that the new customers are part of a new wave of [visitors] aged between 35 to 50.’

Earlier this year, the outgoing chief executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, Simon Soar, said that a combination of Brexit and Covid had led to the ‘worst staffing crisis in living memory’.

Mr Burford added that, in response, L’Horizon had rolled out incentive schemes aimed at attracting and retaining workers.

‘We managed to get out quite quickly and secure most of our seasonal staff quite early on but some positions, like chefs, have been really hard to find. Some people are offering some silly rates [of pay] and there is some poaching of staff going on. We have just made sure that we make our staff feel valued and we are giving special bonuses to those who complete the season.’

Meanwhile, Geoff Mayger, general manager of the Marina Metro Hotel at Havre des Pas, said he was currently operating at around two-thirds or three-quarters full but was experiencing a large number of cancellations.

However, he said that the reasonable level of business, combined with government financial support, had allowed him to keep his head above water.

‘We could still be well down on a normal trading year. But with the level of business we are getting, and the government support, we should be able to get by.’

He added: I am worried about next season because a lot of the European holiday destinations will be back trading again and Jersey’s cost base is high compared to other countries.

‘I think the fact that international travel has been quite limited has been beneficial for Jersey and yet we are not seeing 100% occupancy. If things do open up, it will make the industry more competitive.’

Paul McCallum from the Old Bank Hotel Gorey, said that his regular clientèle – made of up French visitors and attendees at Gorey Castle-based weddings – had virtually disappeared. He added that, after a fully booked summer season in 2019, he had managed to sell only 15 rooms for this season.

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