Five-year plan for an industry in transition
By Fiona Kerley, President of the Jersey Hospitality Association
The story of hospitality in Jersey is well known: in the days of British Railways, Crazy Nights and Bergerac, millions of tourists came to Jersey. When package holidays to Spain became affordable, our industry declined but green shoots are now sprouting.
Our optimism is no longer nebulous: it is concrete. 2017 was the fourth straight year of growth for staying holiday visitors and, with 431,000 tourists staying at least one night in Jersey, it was the strongest year for a decade. Total visitor spend was estimated to be £250m, meaning that visitors paid around £12.5m in GST, roughly equivalent to £120 per man, woman and child living in Jersey, and 15 per cent of all GST collected.
In total, there were 727,000 visits in 2017, including 109,000 day-trip visitors, 103,000 visits to friends and relatives, and 79,000 business trips. More visitors equals more spending in the economy, which is good for them, businesses and our government – 5p in every £1 spent by visitors goes to support public services such as schools and hospitals.
Our industry employed 6,470 people in June 2017, which means more than one in six of the working population work in hospitality. That was 110 more than the previous June, driven by an increase in full-time staff, but 270 fewer than in 2001. Last year, 66 per cent of hotel rooms were full, with that figure increasing to 91.5 per cent in August.
Of course, a healthy hospitality sector benefits the whole community and helps make Jersey an attractive place to live in and do business with, as well as visit. Without hospitality, we would not have anywhere to eat out, go for a drink or entertain guests and our children. The attractions, festivals and events we enjoy are all dependent on visitors, and the industry also supports the preservation of our treasured heritage and environment. It also provides jobs and an alternative career to finance.
And remember, it is not just jobs in hotels, restaurants and bars. Think about Islanders working at the Airport or Harbour, our bus, coach and taxi drivers, our retail sector, our children with Saturday jobs, and many other facets of Island life.
Of course, the industry is aware that our population needs to be controlled; anyone who has followed the election hustings knows it is at the forefront of Islanders’ minds. We also recognise that our industry has the highest number of registered workers – hospitality in the Island has always relied on people coming here to work, not least because of its seasonal nature.
We are, however, working hard with partner agencies, including Skills Jersey, Visit Jersey, Jersey Business, Highlands College and the Population Office, to make sure that young Islanders are able to have a fulfilling career in our wonderfully varied industry. From chefs and cocktail waiters to managers and activity coordinators, hospitality has many career paths and can provide a passport to worldwide travel. We are currently developing a five-year action plan with our partners to promote the industry and provide relevant training.
We support the Council of Ministers’ proposal to introduce work permits but urge the new Assembly to make sure that the employee holds the permit, rather than the employer, and we also require flexibility with the issuing of temporary permits while our efforts to promote the industry to young Islanders bear fruit.
Our industry also needs to be fairly represented at the point when employees move from ‘registered’ to ‘licensed’ at the end of four years. We also agree with other industry groups who argue that the implications of Brexit need to be better understood before a new migration policy is set in stone. We appreciate that our government is working hard to get a good Brexit deal for Jersey but let us wait for the details before determining who can work here and for how long.
We want to work with our new Assembly, and partners, to ensure the viability of our industry. Visit Jersey has an aim to attract one million visitors a year before 2030, with their spending totalling £500m. Only by working together will we achieve that. Ill-considered policies such as the liquid-waste charge, which was thankfully pulled last year, and the decision to raise Vehicle Emissions Duty and vary its bands without any consultation, which has led to a 228% increase in the duty for some members, do not help. I hope the next Assembly has a better record of engagement.
As we all prepare to go to the polls, I would like to wish all candidates the very best of luck in their final fortnight of campaigning and I hope as many of those elected will be able to join myself and other JHA members at a celebratory brunch on Thursday 17 May. Our industry also has a lot to celebrate and I hope the new Assembly can support the vital role we play.