In a JEP column today, Robert MacKenzie, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Tourism, Venues and Attractions Group, has outlined his concerns as tourist accommodation is increasingly converted to housing.
Figures show that with several hotels due to close before the end of the year – including the Mayfair Hotel – the number of visitor beds is set to drop to 7,084 – a far cry from the tourism heyday in the 1980s when more than 30,000 were available. Government statistics show that in 2017, the number of registered bed spaces was 10,608.
Mr MacKenzie said that airline routes could be under threat because of the trend. He said: ‘Almost two-thirds of all passengers travelling into the Island are leisure visitors – so they are critical to the success of any route. With a reduction in beds for visitors to sleep in, there will be a growing problem with availability.
‘While there may be plenty of airline seats to sell, with a lack of available hotel beds tourists will not be booking holidays here. As a result, the airlines will see sales falling short of expectations and this will lead to a cut-back of routes and frequency of service.’
He added: ‘The government should be seriously concerned about the impact of a loss of beds on route connectivity and the hospitality and tourism infrastructure on the Island.
‘Prior to the pandemic, Jersey’s visitor economy was enjoying a period of growth not seen in the previous two decades. As tourism worldwide starts to recover, the Island is in danger of being left behind, if the fall in bed numbers is not addressed.’
Mr McKenzie said that ‘anecdotally’ he had heard that occupancy rates in hotels were currently very high, although a number of beds were not still not available due to Covid-19 restrictions.
His views were echoed by Chamber of Commerce chief executive Murray Norton. He said: ‘If we don’t have tourism, we don’t have bed numbers and we don’t have bookings, we could see a shrinkage of the amount of flights that are available to the Island.
‘Airlines are in business and they’re not going to run flights if they are empty. If there aren’t the hotels or the group bookings, then that affects every single person on this island, because everybody wants to get off.
‘We could find ourselves in a situation where there are only two flights a week on a route when there used to be four and they’re more expensive. There’s always a concern about that.’
The JEP has asked Visit Jersey to provide details on hotel occupancy over the summer and is awaiting a response.