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States’ backing for new hostel at Nunnery upsets hotel trade

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A FIERCE ROW has broken out in Alderney after it emerged that the island’s States will subsidise the soon-to-open Nunnery’s hostel provision.

The island’s accommodation providers have been writing to the States since last year expressing concerns that the new provision would damage their already struggling businesses.

The States has spent £131,000 renovating the Nunnery to create a 10-person hostel and a two-bedroom apartment to offer accommodation to wildlife and heritage visitors.

It is home to the recently-opened Alderney bird observatory and a bird observatory warden has been working free of charge for the past two years on accreditation.

This month, it emerged that the States will pay the ABO £500 a month to top up income from accommodation.

General Services Committee chairwoman Norma Paris said the bird-watching market had ‘huge tourism implications’ but that the Nunnery had experienced ‘a much slower start’ than anticipated.

‘Nevertheless we have had many bird-watching visitors staying in other accommodation this spring and this will continue as we penetrate deeper into this large, specialised visitor market,’ she told providers.

But members of the accommodation sector disagreed that the market existed to the scale suggested by the States – and were not convinced that the Nunnery would be providing beds for additional visitors.

Bill Walden, on behalf of the Alderney Hotel, Guest House and Self-Catering Association, said: ‘We are dismayed and disgusted that the States of Alderney, via its General Services Committee, chaired by Norma Paris, has set up and is heavily subsidising, at the Nunnery, a new entrant to Alderney’s already struggling tourist accommodation sector.

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‘We do not believe that the huge market for bird-watching, as quoted by Mrs Paris, exists. Several of our members report having a handful or less of bookings from bird-watchers this season.

‘Those of us who have self-funded, struggled and built our own businesses through our own hard work, with no help from the States, have been kicked in the teeth by the General Services Committee.

‘To add insult to the injury of having our business handed to the Nunnery, it is our money, as taxpayers, that facilitates them undercutting us.’

ABO warden John Horton said with continued demand and additional nature tours in the pipeline, he expected the ABO to generate around 400 bed nights next year. He said their target audience was the bird-watching community but they would not all stay at the hostel.

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‘The potential number of bird-watchers who will visit Alderney on the back of us achieving the Channel Islands’ first accredited bird observatory is huge,’ he said.

‘This will not be overnight, but everyone will benefit. Those who do choose to stay at the hostel will be self-catering and only account for 10 beds out of over 400 that the island offers.

‘Of course, all the new visitors drawn to the island via the new observatory, wherever they stay, visit our shops and use various other island facilities such as car and cycle hire, boat tours, taxis, off licences, restaurants, pubs, food stores and gift shops.’

Alex Snowdon, the States member with responsibility for tourism, said it was disappointing that the accommodation sector had not been consulted.

‘Mrs Paris had promised to consult with the sector before any decisions were taken. Now it turns out she believes she doesn’t need to engage with the sector, which is struggling in a fragile market,’ he said.

‘This shows little understanding for the importance of public consultation, where issues can be highlighted and hopefully mitigated.’

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