Visitor numbers ‘could exceed pre-Covid level’

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JERSEY’S tourism industry is poised to bounce back from the pandemic, with some hoteliers reportedly believing that business could exceed that seen pre-Covid.

Industry bosses say the Island has attracted new holidaymakers over the past two years and is seen by many UK travellers as a safer and more reliable destination than Europe.

Alex Dolan, business development and marketing director for Dolan Hotels, said both he and some of his counterparts were experiencing ‘strong’ interest and demand.

He added that his firm had received a number of repeat bookings from people who visited the Island for the first time last year, and that there had been an increased number of group bookings.

Mr Dolan, whose firm owns The Somerville, Golden Sands and Hotel Cristina, said: ‘It is very early but I am happy to say that the people I have been speaking to are saying that the interest in Jersey for the summer is very strong at the moment, certainly compared to 2021 but, even compared to 2019, things are looking good.

‘I think Jersey, during the pandemic, built a reputation as a safe place to travel but it has now gained a reputation as a great destination to visit full stop. Anecdotally, from speaking to other hoteliers, things could even be better than 2019.

‘Jersey popped up as a destination on people’s radars during the pandemic but appears to have stayed there.’

He added: ‘In 2020 and 2021, we did not see any groups but groups are now making up a large part of the business in our hotels, with many UK and also German guests.’

Meanwhile, Robert Mackenzie, managing director of C.I. Travel Group, said it was still very early but that there was cause to be ‘optimistic’, with bookings beginning to flow in for the early summer months.

‘In terms of things returning to pre-pandemic levels, we are not up to the volume we saw in 2020 or 2019 but we are certainly seeing signs of recovery, and bookings for summer holidays are flowing in at a good rate.

‘We are reasonably satisfied by the demand we are seeing from the UK, both with sea and air. They are coming in more for the early part of the summer, April, May and June sort of time.’

In 2017, Air Berlin – which operated the vast majority of direct weekend routes between Jersey and several German cities – collapsed, ending several years of growth.

However, Mr Mackenzie said that so far three airlines – Lufthansa, Eurowings and Air Lübeck – were planning to run their normal schedules this summer, adding that it was likely Islanders would see a meaningful number of European visitors in Jersey for the first time in two years.

He also highlighted the return of direct flights between Jersey and Dublin, which are due to be operated by Blue Islands and Emerald Air, an Aer Lingus franchise partner.

‘I think there is very much potential for that route. We used to have a very high number of Irish visitors before so it is great to have two operators doing the route and we are looking forward to seeing how successful they are,’ he said.

‘It has always been a strong market for Jersey and there is a fairly large Irish community here so I am sure they will welcome the ability to fly direct to Dublin again.’

In recent months, the Revere, Stafford and Mayfair Hotels have closed and are due to be demolished. Plans have also been submitted to replace the Apollo and Savoy hotels with flats.

Mr Mackenzie said this was a major concern for the industry, as the loss of beds could ‘threaten the viability of air and sea links’.

‘If people cannot find hotel rooms and fill the seats on the aircraft and ferries that are coming here, it will put our capacity at risk,’ he said.

‘But we need to be positive. We have just had two very challenging years and it is great to be back selling holidays to people coming back to Jersey this summer.

‘We are optimistic about the year on the whole.’

Earlier this month, Condor unveiled its 2022 timetable, which includes some fast-ferry services which are not due to arrive in the UK until almost midnight.

Since then, the company has said that the timetable was planned in response to complaints that some services left too early.

A spokesperson said: ‘The evening departures are therefore suitable for Islanders who do not need to take time off from work and for visitors who can

maximise the last day of their holiday. This is something we have had in previous timetables and was a feature of last year’s schedule too.’

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