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Travel boss: European tourism could grow if islands join forces says

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GUERNSEY and Jersey could work closer together to sell the Channel Islands as a tourist destination, a travel agent has said.

Robert Mackenzie, the managing director of CI Travel Group, said European customers ‘buy’ the Channel Islands as a whole, not individual islands, and thinks Guernsey’s and Jersey’s tourist bodies should join forces.

Robert Mackenzie, the managing director of CI Travel Group, has called on the tourist boards of both islands to look at marketing themselves as one, rather than individual islands.

He added that a lack of political will is preventing a growth in visitors from Europe.

Mr Mackenzie said: ‘Every year Visit Guernsey and Visit Jersey exhibit together at the big trade show in Berlin with a joint stand. We should be doing more of that. European customers, in particular, buy the Channel Islands, not Jersey or Guernsey. We’ve had examples in the past of routes that operate on a triangular basis. We had flights that went from Rotterdam to Jersey and then on to Guernsey and back to Rotterdam. We could develop tourism across the islands more if we were to develop that kind of co-operation.’

Mr Mackenzie says there is a financial incentive for tourism bosses to focus greater attention on Europe.

‘European visitors tend to be much higher spenders and stay for longer, so the value of a visitor from Germany or Austria or Switzerland is much higher than the value of a UK visitor. We’ve done a reasonable job in Germany but more markets need to be developed and opened up. Scandinavia used to be a big market for the islands in the 1990s. We have next to no direct business from there any more.’

His comments come as Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham revealed plans for a pan-island ministerial summit next month. He is due to meet his Guernsey counterpart, Deputy Charles Parkinson, for the first time since May’s general election and joint tourism will be on the agenda.

Senator Farnham said: ‘I know the political will is there because anything that’s good for the Channel Islands is good for both of us. We already are working together. I think we’re seeing quite a strong renaissance in our tourism sector and economy, but we’re not complacent.

‘There’s an opportunity for all the islands to do more to market ourselves as the Channel Islands in Europe. From a Jersey perspective we’re always pleased to work with Guernsey, especially where there’s mutual economic benefit.’

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The chief executive of Visit Jersey, Keith Beecham, said work to grow the European market jointly with colleagues in Guernsey was already happening, but added that the UK remained the primary focus.

He said: ‘Well over 700,000 visitors came to Jersey in 2018 and we forecast growth this year. The UK is our biggest market with over 70% of visitors leaving a UK sea or airport to travel to Jersey. Visit Jersey promotes year-round travel and believes UK numbers will continue to grow throughout the year.

‘In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Visit Jersey and Visit Guernsey work jointly with tour operators. And we are both already working on tours to increase visitors from these countries in 2019. Some travellers are looking at island-hopping. The Channel Islands website, visitchannelislands.com, is a one-stop shop, and earlier this year Visit Jersey and Visit Guernsey jointly hosted workshops for tour operators from Europe to meet our tourism and hospitality suppliers.’

Mr Beecham added that the recent deregulation of Guernsey’s air-licensing system could help boost that work. He said: ‘I understand Guernsey is moving to open skies and Visit Jersey is hopeful this could present new opportunities for us to work with Visit Guernsey and our industry partners to present all that is wonderful about the Channel Islands.’

Visit Guernsey did not respond to requests for comment.

Gary Burgess

By Gary Burgess
Reporter

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