Cost Of Travel And Winter Boats Service Highlighted In Comprehensive Travel Survey

scillonian 2012Councillors say they’re concerned about the cost of travel to Scilly and some want a separate group to investigate costs.

But nobody chose to put its creation to the vote at last Thursday’s Transport Meeting.

Councillors called for action after reviewing the most comprehensive survey of travel preferences to and from Scilly to have been carried out in years.

The questionnaire, run for the Council by Bluegrass Research over the summer, obtained telephone and online responses from almost 500 residents and 1,500 returning or potential visitors.

The majority of travellers see Scilly as “a great holiday destination” but they also consider it expensive to reach. The results show the cost of travel and accommodation, and the length of the journey, is putting new visitors off coming to the islands.

Cllr James Francis felt the “difficult question” of cost had been dodged to some extent. But Cllr Marian Bennett acknowledged that price issues topped the feedback and claimed that airfares had risen considerably for next season, which didn’t help.

Marian later told us that her campaign group FRIST had received complaints about 2014 fare hikes of up to 10%.

She argues that prices are marked ‘from’ the lowest fare and there are usually only small numbers at the cheap price, with boat or air rates differing according to how soon you book and the day of travel.

The Steamship Company claim that fares are comparable and Land’s End prices have remained the same. Some Exeter ticket prices have fallen from £160 to £137.50.

In the meeting, Marian pushed for the Council to “take action” and influence travel costs, because they are “the channel for our whole economy.”

But after twenty minutes of debate, councillors appeared to forget to put Marian’s suggestion of forming a travel cost sub-committee to the vote, and the meeting moved on.

During the debate members heard that a quarter of potential tourists didn’t know enough about the islands, suggesting there’s a problem with our marketing campaigns.

For those who have been here before, most liked to travel by air rather than boat.

The largest number of visitors start their journey by car and prefer to use Exeter Airport, because it’s easier to reach from their homes And Newquay was the least popular entry point for the islands with less than 1 in 5 people preferring the airport.

The visitors who come by sea like the boat because it’s cheaper.

Part of the survey was left open for visitors to make comments. The most common included calls for a return of the helicopter service and more flights from other airports.

The majority of locals seem to be positive about Scilly’s transport provision. More than two-thirds of us prefer to fly rather than take the boat, particularly if we have a business or medical appointment on the mainland.

And we overwhelmingly prefer to use Land’s End Airport, which scored highly for its facilities, as did St Mary’s Airport.

But those people who like the boat cite the cost and reliability as an important factor.

Residents rated introducing a winter boat service as the most important change that need putting in place. Two thirds of residents say they would use a winter boat if one were introduced.

The quay improvements at St Mary’s and especially Penzance, rated highly.

Colin Daly suggested that councillors in Penzance should be ashamed of the lack of facilities and said “it can’t go on.”

Committee Chairman Chris Thomas accepted that, but pointed out that Scilly doesn’t have control of both ports.

Quay improvements and a winter boat was placed higher by locals than winter flights to Exeter, Sunday flying or improving St Mary’s airport terminal.

Robert Dorrien Smith called the survey report useful but complicated.

But Council Chairman Amanda Martin was less enthusiastic about the presentation, which she said was “like something from a primary school.”

38 Responses to Cost Of Travel And Winter Boats Service Highlighted In Comprehensive Travel Survey