Most hospitality firms surveyed want airport runway extension
NEARLY all hospitality businesses which took part in a recent survey about air links believe they would benefit if Guernsey's runway was extended.
About two-thirds of the dozens of firms which responded said a longer runway would make them consider expanding.
The survey of members of the Guernsey Hospitality Association was released on the eve of a States debate this week on whether to back the Economic Development committee’s bid to rule out a runway extension for the time being or Deputy Simon Vermeulen’s amendment to lengthen it by about 160 metres using EMAS technology.
‘The results of the survey speak for themselves,’ said Alan Sillett, president of the association, which represents more than 80% of the hospitality sector.
‘It clearly highlights that our members believe there is a problem with the affordability of air fares and that this is having a detrimental effect on their businesses.
‘The survey also states that if a solution to improving air links via EMAS to enable a longer runway within the current airport boundary can be introduced, 89% of respondents believed it would enhance their business.
‘And 67% said they would consider expansion plans should the runway be re-purposed to a length that industry standard planes can fly to Guernsey with a full payload.’
Nearly 50 hospitality businesses responded to the survey. Recent figures released by the airport revealed that between January and July this year it handled nearly 85,000 fewer passengers than during the same period in 2019, but nearly 40,000 more passengers than during the same period last year.
The association’s survey found that 95% of respondents were dissatisfied with the island’s current air links.
Six in 10 were concerned about reliability, and eight in 10 were dissatisfied with the range of routes, and nine in 10 were unhappy about air fares.
‘There are serious problems with our air links and a solution needs to be found,’ said Mr Sillett.
‘If EMAS is that solution then why delay making a positive decision to improve the island’s economy?’
Deputy Vermeulen’s amendment and the association have claimed the runway could be lengthened to 1,623 metres at a cost of about £22m. through the use of EMAS, which would involve installing crushable material at the end of the runway to help stop an aircraft if it overruns.
The association, which has previously suggested a new visitor levy, has also come out in favour of Deputy Vermeulen’s proposal to raise fees to fund the installation of EMAS.
‘This means no financial pain for Guernsey taxpayers and a payback from industry for the support shown during covid, while stimulating growth and a fightback against the black hole in our finances,’ it said.
The Economic Development has accepted that EMAS could allow a runway extension within the airport’s existing boundary, but has identified other considerations.
‘There would also be significant implications for the airport’s finances and business model, the ongoing cost of route development support, service levels – frequency, reliability and flight times – and Aurigny’s sustainability,’ it said.
‘The next planned resurfacing of the runway at Guernsey Airport, to take place in five to 10 years, or the ongoing work on the airport master plan, would provide relevant opportunities for this to be considered as a coherent overall investment decision.’