Matt Thomas said that the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions and the fact that many people were unable to take holidays earlier in the year meant that Jersey Airport was seeing much better than expected arrivals numbers, with the trend expected to last until the late autumn.
‘In the last two weeks, we’ve been about 65% of where we were in the same week in 2019 in terms of passenger traffic and that’s not bad going. This is a long way ahead of other airports in the UK and Europe,’ he said.
‘I think that reflects two things. One, we’re an island and we all have loved ones and friends that we want to go and see. And two, we are part of the UK Common Travel Area.
‘It may be a bit more risky to go to the Mediterranean this year and Jersey is seen as more safe than that, in the same way that a lot of people went to Cornwall or Scotland.
‘We are seeing a good up-tick in tourism – we’re not at 2019 levels, but we’re heading in the right direction and traffic’s twice as high as it was this time last year.’
Leaders in the hospitality industry recently said that September and October had seen an unusually high number of hotel reservations. And last month, holiday airline Jet2 announced that they would be extending some of their summer routes from 25 September until 16 October following ‘huge demand’.
Mr Thomas said that what he was seeing was in line with this trend, which may have been caused by a backlog of people wanting to take holidays.
‘A lot of us weren’t able to travel in May or June or weren’t comfortable travelling. I think many people have delayed those trips,’ he said.
‘I think the recovery in the short term will continue and we will see proportionately more tourists than we would normally in in September and October. But whether it gets back to pre-pandemic levels or not? I doubt it.’
He added that the sudden increase in demand was partially to blame for delays that passengers had been experiencing getting through the Airport, with baggage-handlers Swissport suffering staff shortages and Covid-19 safety checks still in place.
‘Swissport are privately owned and had redundancies through the pandemic,’ said Mr Thomas.
‘They are now trying to recruit to build back up that business and we are in very close contact with them.
‘We want Islanders to be proud of their Airport and we’re now saying please stick with us. I’ve no doubt they’ll recruit and get all the bodies they need. They are supplementing with people from the UK, typically about 20 to 25 people at the moment.’