Guernsey Press

‘High cost air fares are putting people off coming to Guernsey’

AURIGNY’S pricing policy has been blamed for a drop in visitor numbers by the Guernsey Hospitality Association.

Guernsey Hospitality Association president Alan Sillett. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32173468)

A new travel bulletin was published by the States this week which showed that the total number of travellers departing Guernsey was 72,510 during the first quarter of 2023.

This compares with 90,216 during the first quarter of 2019 – a 20% decrease.

GHA president Alan Sillett said that the latest statistics were very concerning.

‘Leisure visitors down 40%, business/corporates down 15% and overall visitor numbers down close to 20%,’ he said.

‘We understand some of the issues facing the main market in the UK such as high inflation, rising utility bills and interest rates will be part of the story, but believe that high cost of air fares is the main deterrent in people booking to come to Guernsey.

'When you compare air fares to Guernsey with Jersey, especially from Gatwick and Manchester, you often see a major difference of as much as over double the cost.’

An Aurigny spokesman refuted the GHA suggestion, and said that the island’s bounceback from Covid, with regard to passenger numbers, was faster than the overall UK market and other Crown Dependencies.

‘The visitor economy is still recovering from the dramatic impact of the pandemic. We have kept fare increases to an absolute minimum and substantially below those of other airlines, even though we do not have the scale and level of robustness which larger operators have,' the spokesman said.

The GHA made reference to the States air framework policy from September 2021 that states that Aurigny would forsake a profit motive beyond that needed to be financially self-sufficient in favour of affordable air travel.

‘We have to ask is the affordable air travel element of that part of the strategy actually happening?’ said Mr Sillett.

Aurigny stated that air traffic volumes for the first quarter of this year have continued this upward trajectory and the number of destinations served – through scheduled, charter and ad-hoc operations, was higher than before the pandemic.

The GHA said they had questions for Economic Development over the future of air travel and its impact on tourism.

‘We appreciate this is only Q1, and we really hope the numbers can be clawed back to a strong level in Q2 and beyond,' said Mr Sillet.

‘However for quite a while now we have been warning people involved at the States around the tourism sector that the current business model is not working. But there appears to be a lack of concern and drive to change things.

‘When it comes to tourism there is a lack of joined-up thinking within government that is not helping the overall situation.’