Bookings Lower But Cruise Sector Booming

The Tourist Information Centre say bookings for the summer are looking lower than during the same period last year.

Julian Pearce said that while self-catering bookings were holding up well in June and July, initial indications are that the B&B sector is down almost 50% and bookings later in the year across all accommodation types are lower.

Last year was the first time that the TIC have collected detailed vacancy figures from the self-catering, half-board and B&B sectors. That data showed people were tending to book later and Julian thinks this might be happening again this year.

But local guesthouse owner, Councillor Sheila Thomas, felt the underlying figures could be even worse. She said the building projects at the new school and Porthcressa meant many of her guests were builders and not tourists.

However, there was some good news for the islands’ tourist economy.

This year will see the highest number of cruise ships ever visiting the islands. Julian said in May alone, 18 vessels have been scheduled to arrive.

This Sunday is a key date when both the Ocean Countess and Discovery cruise ships with over 1000 passengers will visit.

Sheila asked how well local businesses had been alerted to this fact. She was worried that all those passengers could be wandering around on Sunday with nowhere open.

Julian says the TIC try to get the information out to local businesses well in advance, by emails or through the local media, but they can’t force businesses to open.

He said it will be a test for how well the islands can deal with these numbers. He said some larger cruise ships are starting to show interest in visiting the islands and we need to show how well we can cope.

Chris Savill said we must be doing something right if some ships are now staying overnight. Mike Nelhams agreed and said during the last cruise ship visit, passengers went to Tresco, St Mary’s, St Agnes and Bryher and this is a good sign.

Julian added that some passengers are ‘cruise repeaters’ who know the islands and choose where they go based on the weather that day, rather than taking organised trips.

He said this market didn’t really exist six years ago while Chris said it appears to be replacing the traditional day trip passengers using the Scillonian III.

In 2011, 42,000 copies of the brochure were distributed compared to 37,000 in 2010 and Julian says this year’s figures are holding up well.

However, hits to the website are down over 10% on last year.

Julian says a new website is planned for the first half of 2012,with improved and simpler navigation, an upgrade of the front page, the potential for on-line accommodation availability, improved search facilities and improved use of high impact imagery.