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Hoteliers anticipate worst season since the Occupation

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LOCAL hoteliers are anticipating one of the worst seasons since the Second World War – and it is estimated that only around half of hotels will reopen as soon as the lockdown restrictions are eased.

Alan and Aine Sillett, who run the Duke of Normandie and are joint heads of the Chamber of Commerce's hospitality group. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28263590)

The pandemic has brought tourism and hospitality to its knees, with the sector regarded as likely to be the most badly hit along with aviation.

Alan and Aine Sillett are the joint heads of the Chamber of Commerce hospitality group and they want to see government support for tourism and hospitality extended into the summer.

Mr Sillett said the help package needed to reflect the reality of the damage.

‘I think there needs to be continuing support after 30 June, maybe a tailored one that could be part payroll scheme and part a grant to go towards hotels’ costs; because even though they’re closed there are still hefty monthly bills, such as insurance, utilities, subscriptions, staff house maintenance, hotel maintenance, the reservation software package – there is a whole list of monthly charges.’

With the States seeking to borrow £500m. to reboot the local economy, tourism leaders are anxious that their sector receives a slice of that aid.

They point to the most recent figures showing that tourism is worth an estimated £156m. per year to the island.

The sector also helps to maintain air and sea links – the most up-to-date statistics from Visit Guernsey revealed that 60% of air passengers and 50% of ferry passengers were tourists.

Other indirect benefits include supporting the finance industry because wealthy individuals want to do business in a place where they can also eat out in fine restaurants.

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Mr and Mrs Sillett run the Duke of Normandie Hotel, and they along with their staff are keen to reopen the hotel, restaurant and bar as soon as they are given the green light.

Although the focus for the sector for the next nine months is survival, Mrs Sillett could see a silver lining if the island is hungry and dynamic enough to grab it.

‘I think Guernsey has a real opportunity here because I think the general public are going to be nervous about flying too far away, long-haul or even a three- or four-hour flight to Europe, but perhaps they might consider a 40- to 50-minute flight, and that’s where Guernsey could start getting a brand new customer.

‘Even though at the moment things are not looking good, we could be preparing for the future, the fact that people can go island-hopping is a big pull.

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‘We still believe in Guernsey as a destination, it has a great product. The whole world is suffering, it’s not just Guernsey, but we need to be looking to the future with optimism.’

Top of the wish list for the recovery strategy is a Victor Hugo Centre and backing being given to the people who want to put the French author’s classic Toilers of the Sea onto the big screen.

The runway extension is also considered vital for the long-term future of tourism and there are calls for the cost-benefit analysis into that project to be made public so that everyone can view the recommendations.

Most of the island’s restaurants rent their premises, and there is pressure on landlords to be more flexible in the future, so that get-out clauses are allowed, and requirements such as quarterly rents in advance become a thing of the past.

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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