The morning after our recent general election, over half of the successful candidates – including six of the eight Senators-elect – tucked into a well-earned brunch at the Ommaroo Hotel, as guests of the Jersey Hospitality Association.
There were many tired faces but we were delighted by the turnout, which showed that many in the new Assembly value our sector, which last year continued its welcomed recovery, with 727,000 visitors coming to Jersey, who collectively spent £250m in our economy. Of the total visitors, 413,000 came on holiday, the highest number for a decade.
Our brunch was in no way a lobbying exercise but just a ‘well done’ in a very informal setting. In fact, there didn’t need to be any ‘sell’ because the sentiment in the room was already overwhelmingly positive. Of course, we recognise that politics is the art of the possible and our new States Members will have to compromise, but I can only hope that the importance of hospitality is never lost in the Chamber.
That means that when new laws, policies, regulations and charges are introduced, full assessments of their impact are carried out and there is proper consultation. The volte-face of the Council of Ministers over last year’s liquid-waste charge is an example of how not to do it. It threatened our encouraging but still delicate recovery and the example charges included in the proposition just didn’t match reality. With a new council and Assembly, our representatives have a great opportunity to get things right.
At times, the JHA will be critical of States proposals, as we were with the liquid-waste charge, and, recently, we’ve shared our concerns about the Migration Policy, Living Wage and Vehicle Emissions Duty. Yet we are, first and foremost, partners with government, and that sentiment was definitely prevalent among politicians at the brunch. Last year, we all, as taxpayers, spent more than £5m on tourism and our industry invested many millions more, so it is in everyone’s interests to get a good return on that.
The Channel Islands’ first Premier Inn has recently opened and we welcome the company as a member of the JHA. Of course, we recognise that a new entrant in the market could have a negative impact on some existing hotels and guest houses but, overall, we celebrate the arrival of Britain’s biggest hotel chain, which adds 91 rooms to the 3,724 hotel bedrooms already in Jersey. As with the growing success of easyJet in the Island and its positive effect on visitor numbers, our addition to the Premier Inn ‘route network’ puts Jersey on an important map, accessed by millions.
We recognise the pressures that the new Assembly will be under, including addressing migration, which was a prevalent theme, if not the theme, during the hustings and in manifestos. As with all new legislation, we urge Members to consider their choices carefully, incorporate flexibility into their plans, and not make decisions in isolation. With Brexit next year, understanding the bigger picture has never been more important.
On behalf of the JHA, I wish the new Assembly bon courage – we will be supporting you as a critical friend. We all agree that Jersey is a great place to live in and visit; only by working together we will safeguard this vibrant, exciting and growing industry that we all enjoy.