Premier Inn opening marks first major new hotel for 34 years

With the new Premier Inn welcoming its first guests today, Helen Bowditch spoke to a tourism industry veteran about the last major hotel to open, the Novotel, now the Peninsula, in 1988

The Premier Inn is the first new major hotel to have opened since 1988 (30556286)
The Premier Inn is the first new major hotel to have opened since 1988 (30556286)

GUERNSEY’S first major new hotel in 34 years is welcoming its first guests today.

The 100-bed Premier Inn at Admiral Park is the first purpose-built hotel in Guernsey since the 99-bed Novotel, now the Peninsula, opened in the summer of 1988.

A look in the Guernsey Press archive shows that in the mid- to late-1980s, tourism was still in its heyday and a pillar of the economy, employing thousands of people and the bed stock was around 15,000.

Today's total bed stock stands at little more than a third of that.

When it opened, the Novotel offered banqueting rooms, conference facilities, an outdoor heated pool, extensive gardens, and a restaurant open from 6am till midnight.

It employed 35 members of staff from France, the UK, and Guernsey.

Back in 1988 guest houses, which were often family businesses, were a popular option, promoting affordable prices to the so-called 'bucket and spade brigade'.

Martin Ozanne has spent a lot of his working life in tourism, and he remembers well the buzz of excitement around the Novotel’s opening.

The former president of Ghata, the old Guernsey Hotel and Tourism Association, said it was a very different time then for the tourist industry.

‘The majority of people came by boat, there was the Sarnia and the Caesarea, and then later on the Earl Godwin, the Earl William, those were roll-on roll-offs, and there was a hydrofoil from St Malo.

‘So we did have a lot of visitors, mainly from the UK, but some from France and elsewhere, and it was as big an industry as the finance industry is now.

‘Aurigny also ran their small planes to Cherbourg and to Dinard, and that was every day, and now we don’t have those links anymore.

‘So really what I think has damaged us quite a bit is the connectivity.

‘Let’s hope that now Covid is over and people are talking about the new Premier Inn, that we get more connections. It’ll come I think eventually, but it might take a little while.’

The budget airline boom was already gathering steam at the end of the 80s and continued into the 90s, and this trend meant that visitor numbers to Guernsey fell, with tourists seeking guaranteed sun just a couple of hours away.

For Mr Ozanne, improving transport links with cheaper fares is the key to protecting the tourism industry in the future, and that could require the extension of the airport runway.

He would also like to see the return of a dedicated tourism department within the States, instead of it coming under the wide umbrella of Economic Development.

Times change, but the stories linger, and Mr Ozanne remembers when even going to St Peter’s was considered by some islanders as trip to a foreign land.

‘I had some visitors that arrived, two ladies here staying in one of my cottages, and when they arrived they said it had been a very long journey, and I asked them where they had come from, and they said “we’ve come from the Vale”.

‘I thought they meant the Vale of Evesham, but no, they’d come on holiday to St Peter’s from the Vale.’

Mr Ozanne said bookings to his holiday cottages were looking ‘very healthy’ this year, although many are returning guests, and he saw the new Premier Inn as a visible symbol of confidence.

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