In the third instalment of the Visit Jersey series, ‘Together for Tourism’, showcasing the opportunities for this key Island industry, Ana and Marcus Calvani, joint chief executives of the Jersey Hospitality Association, ask whether people could imagine a life without this core sector
IN a challenging marketplace, the hospitality sector continues to prove that it has the resilience to survive and that it is highly valued here.
Undoubtedly, the support it received from the government during the pandemic meant that businesses could see a way out and, as we navigate the new challenges, that financial support has given way to more practical measures. But the industry is also stepping up.
It is not by chance that our association is now seen as the voice for hospitality. That’s been down to a lot of challenging work by successive management committees and the enthusiasm of its chief executives. When we were lucky enough to take on the role of steering this organisation, we could see that it was time for the JHA to step up a gear and invite our members to get more involved.
That is the reason we are carrying out a restructuring that will give all the remarkably diverse elements that make up our Island’s hospitality industry an equal say in what we stand for and what we do. What the restructure of the JHA is doing is letting our members speak up about which things are good and are bad about doing business in Jersey and what needs to change. It will bring like-minded businesses together and give them all an equal voice. We were thrilled that the membership approved the restructure at our AGM last week.
Change in action
These changes have not come about by accident. They are the result of some sometimes tough conversations with our members over many months. They have told us what they want and whether they see us as an organisation that is standing up for what really matters to them. What is clear is that they see ways that can help make running their businesses better. That is what they need now and that is what we are planning to make possible with the restructure of the JHA. But it needs the Island to be on board as well to guarantee a future for the association.
It is difficult to place hospitality in one bracket and you will be familiar with the various terms used to describe parts of the industry. But what matters is that the Island recognises the huge part that hospitality plays in making Jersey what it is and the massive contribution it makes to the economy.
Good destinations are all about what is on offer when the visitors arrive, and they are also about great value on what they deliver to the right target consumer. They have got to be accessible as well, and those flight and ferry connections that we, as Islanders, take for granted and find so important to our own lives are there because we have a strong hospitality industry.
You could argue that it is worth having a strong industry just for that, but it also brings enormous value to all of us. After all, most of us go into a business in, or linked to, the hospitality sector every day and it has a magnetic effect for other industries. The hospitality industry literally touches each of our lives daily. Can you imagine a life without it?
‘Value’ in hospitality
Our friends and colleagues in financial services visit hospitality venues. They wow their clients and business partners with the fantastic food and drink in hospitality venues. Those clients and partners are treated to luxury accommodation in beautiful locations, a trip to the spa, a round of golf, a great coffee or after-work drink.
High-net-worth individuals and their families chose Jersey because it is a wonderful place to live. That is clearly down to the Island’s unique charms and tax rules, but it is also because we have great places to visit, to entertain in and be entertained by.
And us ordinary Islanders love going out to our favourite places where we know the staff, the owners and what is good on the menu.
In 2019, it was suggested that tourism was worth around £280million to the Island’s economy. That figure was based on the amount that visitors spend, but we estimate that the real value of the hospitality industry is closer to £1bn a year if you include what we all spend, the corporate spend, the investment into Jersey and the employment opportunities. Viewing hospitality as a part of the economy that solely deals with visitors ignores what this industry is all about. That must change.
Of course, it’s not just the monetary value. There are huge benefits in welfare, quality of life and happiness to be gained from having a thriving hospitality sector. Maybe it’s time that we measure different industries with different metrics to define their ‘value’?
Let it grow
We see our job at the JHA as one where we remove the barriers to business success for all owners and operators. We are not here to teach, and we are not here to tell them what to do or how to manage their businesses. They know how to do that. We are here to listen. What we want to do is take away as much of the distraction that stops them from being fully productive and the barriers that stop them from being able to reach their full potential.
Last week, we hosted more than 150 guests for our AGM, networking lunch and industry strategy panel, an event on which we worked in partnership with the government’s Visitor Economy Steering Group, something of which we are very proud to be part. This group consists of other hospitality industry stakeholders including Visit Jersey, Ports of Jersey, the Chamber of Commerce, Jersey Business and Luxury Jersey Hotels.
The group asked whether we could merge this event into being part of the strategy work, a chance for the opinions and voices of all our members to be listened to and worked into the new strategy, a strategy which is far more about real change than a document, one that is driven by what the industry wants its future to be and how, collaboratively with government, we can all make it happen.
We were thrilled to have an incredible list of guest speakers that included Government of Jersey outgoing chief executive Suzanne Wylie, Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel, Arrow Global founder Zach Lewy, Government of Jersey industry sector lead Olivia Chaplin,CI Travel Group managing director Robert MacKenzie, Evelyn Partners director Matt Falla, Hotel de France owner Robert Parker and ourselves.
Our aim was to unite our industry, bring everyone together for a moment of change, ignite a belief in a positive future, showcase the change work that the strategy group are doing and how government is now taking our industry very seriously, understanding the vital role it plays in our Island’s economy and how it links and enables all other industries in our Island.
The energy and buzz in the room was inspiring and the positive feedback that we have received has been overwhelming and given us further confidence that the hard work we are doing is having a positive impact.
We have no doubt that our industry will rise to the challenge, will jump on board this wave of change, will grow in confidence and will start to see success as new investment is encouraged, re-investment in existing assets is made, creativity is encouraged and our path to a sustainable and vibrant future is laid.
We need to be focused on our Island’s inimitable offering, continue to develop it as a product, embrace it as locals, invest in it as business owners with the support of government, ringfence it so that it will be there forever in its best possible state. We are incredibly lucky as an Island to have such a wealth of authentic and unique offerings. It is these that make ‘Jersey’.
Only by working together as an industry can we collectively grow and improve what is already on offer here. Whether it’s working with the government on providing better work permit rules and solutions to our housing crisis or working together to ensure that standards across our businesses remain high, a unified industry and a stronger JHA will benefit every single one of us. We are, as our motto says, Stronger as One.