Airport Fees Frozen As Passenger Numbers Revised Upwards

airport from old townCouncillors have agreed to freeze the fees at St Mary’s Airport for the next year and to work towards increasing passenger numbers.

The vote followed a lengthy debate over visitor numbers, cost of travel and the tourism economy.

Last year’s airport budget assumed 108,000 people would fly through St Mary’s. The actual figure was 90,000 people, 17% below the estimate.

90% of airport income comes from aviation revenue and the airport is a stand-alone account.

In Tuesday’s Transport Meeting, Cllr Marian Bennett was advised in the meeting that it would be illegal for the ratepayer to subsidise the airport.

The fall in numbers presents an immediate problem because last year councillors voted to put aside surplus cash for future improvements.

Cllr Robert Dorrien Smith led calls to reject a proposal for a 3% landing fee rise. That was based on a reduced estimate of 90,000 air passengers this year.

Robert felt that the UK economy was improving and efforts had been made to promote Scilly by the Islands’ Partnership, to arrest 11 years of decline.

Robert and Islands’ Partnership Chair Chris Gregory felt that the Council would send out a powerful message if they were prepared to waive a landing fee increase.

Marian echoed that view, claiming that lower fares would encourage economic growth and members should think about the wider community rather than concentrating on the airport budget.

Robert was optimistic that more airport savings could be made as the Council has brought in Blackpool Airport Management consultants to look at expenses and airport systems.

The Council is also discussing sharing airport management personnel with Skybus and Land’s End Airport.

But not all members backed cutting or freezing fees.

Transport Vice Chair Steve Sims accepted he’d be viewed as “the miser in the corner” but felt that a 3% landing fee rise would bring a negligible fare increase.

Cllr Amanda Martin said she could sees both sides of the argument but would not support a cut. “We need to protect our airport,” she said.

Director of Place Craig Dryden warned of the “precarious” nature of the airport which remains under special attention by the Civil Aviation Authority. He spoke against reducing the proposed fee increase, so on-going improvements could be funded.

Cllr Richard McCarthy claimed that the Steamship Company would bring in “considerable” price increases in March and he was nervous about cutting landing fees if there was no certainty that the Steamship Company would pass savings on to passengers

Marian claimed that there had been “significant” hikes of 30% in Exeter ticket prices and 19% increases in Newquay fares.

She also took issue with fares advertised “from” £42 on the Scillonian.

She felt that not all passengers could access the lower rate and regular visitors would not take this well.

But Marian was warned by Amanda Martin that she couldn’t advocate the Council getting involved in fare setting, as it was outside their remit.

Cllr James Francis called on the new Steamship Company Chief Executive, Robert Goldsmith, who was in the meeting, to address these issues and indicated that offering a last minute ticket reduction would be positive, as the company had been “handled nicely” by the Council meeting.

The Steamship Company boss didn’t offer to cut fares. He pointed out that there had been a 25% rise in landing fees last year, but added that anything the Council does to help the Steamship Company to reduce costs would be helpful.

He said he was a on a “steep learning curve” but there were other issues, like accommodation cost, which had been highlighted by the Blue Sail tourism report and in the Transport Meeting.

He advised it was too early to predict whether Cllr Dorrien Smith’s optimism was being reflected in travel bookings as there had been much negative media publicity over difficulties in travel to Cornwall.

Cllr Dorrien Smith had wanted to aim for 96,000 passengers and potentially reduce landing fees. But he accepted that other members didn’t share a “casino” mentality, so he called for a freeze on landing charges and setting the target air passenger numbers at 93,000.

Head of Finance Iain McCulloch advised that increase would generate enough income to offset the need for a 3% rise and members backed that.

16 Responses to Airport Fees Frozen As Passenger Numbers Revised Upwards

  1. Yet another islander February 27, 2014 at 7:42 am

    What amazing foresight Ray, you already know the outcome of the next election. Can’t understand why no one took your advice on the train link and you can even predict the weather. If the Iossc had only listened to you they’d have bought a couple of chinooks back in 2012and are problems would have been solved.

  2. Ray Wornes February 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Sadly, for a struggling island community privatised Tory England is not subsidised Nationalist Scotland. All our privatised services are now unaffordable to a large percentage of the population and the Govt.’s claimed increase in GDP growth is not sustainable because the recent improvement in retail sales was funded out of limited personal savings – not from increasing pay. The unemployment count may only have improved because claimants are being bullied off the register and even 2 or 3 days work a week cannot support a family and shouldn’t be classed as a job.

    So please don’t blindly pluck a larger number out of the air for this year’s visitor count because the recovery may not come for another 2 years as I explained to the IOSSC in Nov. 2012 along with a warning of future extreme weather. If there has been a large fall in unemployment then where is the growth in production to match these figures? I believe most of Britain is still in deep recession and forecasting an increase in the number of visitors for 2014 could be just wishful thinking. The question being, given the recession, is the high cost of transport and accommodation strangling Scilly’s tourist industry? The IOSSC must be looking to the next Labour Govt. for funding because many large spending commitments are being postponed until after the next election. Even so, it looks like the new Govt. and perhaps the stock market could again be bust in 2015. I hope Labour cancels the £50 billion HS2 and builds an alternative high speed route to Cornwall as I requested in 2012. Carefully manage your spending folks – just in case there is, in fact, a further reduction in visitor numbers in 2014.

  3. Andy February 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    >The last time i was there the immpression was that it was a place where >older people go

    Erm, me and my partner are in our early 40’s.

    We come visit BECAUSE there are no dratted screaming ill behaved kids, NO Ibiza style beach parties or young ill behaved girls in ill fitting
    clothes spouting rubbish all day.

    If I want loud music, disco’s abnd other rubbish then I’ll book an
    18-30 holiday thankyou !

  4. Lindsay Sawyer February 25, 2014 at 6:58 am

    Can I just comment on Peter’s post….Peter who has on previous posts stated he stays at ‘Belmont’ refers to ‘B& B’s with 1950’s furniture’.

    Where are these gems? I have grown up here, and still live here. I have not noticed any guesthouses still in the ‘1950’s style’.

    From the many guesthouses here that I have actually popped into on occasions, without exception are all pretty ‘up to date’ in style. Some exceptional.

    To steal part of Peter’s own comment….. ‘I’m sure I’m a complete bore on this message board’

    In my opinion Peter ‘Yes you are!’

    • Peter February 27, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Lindsay; I’m somewhat embarrassed but also intrigued to note that you must pay very careful attention to my boring posts over the many months as I have been careful NOT to mention Belmont by name on this messageboard. My memory may be failing, but I think i only referred to it obliquely by responding to a comment on here from Steven, the proprietor, in which I felt it appropriate to compliment him as a returning client. So I assume you joined the clues (not difficult for a local) and worked out I stayed there. I really have not felt it is appropriate to single out a particular business for praise on this messageboard, but as you started this, and lest any readers misunderstand my earlier comment, I want to state clearly that I think Belmont is an excellent B&B with high standards, modern furnishings, excellent food, welcoming and friendly owners and without a trace of 1950s furniture. In contrast to your rather unpleasant personal comment directed at me, I will not stoop to getting personal by naming the dirty, pokey, ramshackle, inhospitable, unprofessionally-run, uncomfortable B&Bs and self-catering joints we have previously stayed in over the twenty-seven years we have been visiting Scilly. And yes, I am a bore, because I care deeply about Scilly and no-one of influence ever seems to do anything about its imminent demise other than re-arrange the deckchairs on the Titanic, so I feel compelled to keep making the same points over and over again. The Blue Sail Report of about three years ago – a thorough, perceptive and well-evidenced report – said the same things I regularly say, as do many other contributors to this board. You can bury your head in the sand if you want and hope the tourists magically return, or you can bite the bullet and turn Scilly into a successful 21st century tourist destination. Your call. if Scilly tourism (and the islands’ only real source of income) becomes effectively dead, I only lose my favourite holiday destination. You lose your home, your income and your way of life.

  5. Kastri February 25, 2014 at 1:18 am

    Peter, has hit the nail here in terms of standards. Even having spent 25 years as a tourism consultant around the world, it doesn’t take that experience to realise that standards, service and ones approach are what people want. Most people wont mind paying a decent price for good service and quality – but too many places in scilly simply rant good enough – many are excellent – but the ones that are not are simply relying on repeats that will put up with poor standards. We stayed in a place peter seems to highlight,very poor furnatue, simply depressing by anyone’s standards, charged a fortune – simply not worth it however beautiful scilly is. We were so appalled we wrote to the duchy as land owner – the answer was simply trying to defend the indefensible, referring to forefathers etc, nothing to do with it – it has to be of value and at least half decent. My concern now and since is that the reply was sent by the same person who chairs the new partnership. I herein think here is some of the problem – protect you community sure but refrain from being too insular and open up to you market with good quality and service and see the 11 year decline of numbers stop.

    I always remember seeing someone on here bemoaning the cruise visitors, saying they didn’t want them as they are only here for a few hours. They will all spend some money, and not always does immediate footfall create the revenue, it may knock on to next time when they and others they have told return.

    Yes it is pretty pricy to fly in, but I know many that will spend the two hours on the boat to save, but are simply rinsed when staying on the islands.

    I read with interest the tourism vacancy that was delayed then changed then advertised. Was I interested, absolutely – what an opportunity to add value to an amazing place. After 25 yeas o leading turnaround of tourism sectors I prob should have applied. What put me off – from discussions I had on the islands about it I wasn’t going to get anywhere near the post due toon part the insular approach. Please open up ans halt the decline!

  6. Major Misunderstanding February 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

    The Isles of Scilly needs a product to sell to tourists.

    You can’t bang on about how quiet and peaceful it is and yet do nothing to reduce traffic.

    You can’t sell it on the beaches and sunshine when you don’t clean the seaweed off the beaches and don’t have that much sunshine.

    You can’t tell people that it’s a tourist resort and then have tourists faced with shut doors on Sundays.

    The tourism sector is an embarrassment to Scilly at present, it needs to get itself together fast. I think the Council should apply for LAG funding so that it can buy some properties and then hire them out to a new generation of younger, hungrier local entrepreneurs who will be willing to put the time and effort in to provide services that tourists want.

  7. PHJ February 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Never placed a bet in my life but I may ask William Hill for odds against an ‘increase in visitor numbers’. Been visiting for over 40 years and even I ask myself why I put up with ridiculous travel costs, poor eating experiences, the worst Co-op I have ever experienced, unsmiling Boatmen (not all), the ‘Doreen’ effect on Tresco, opening hours etc. etc.The answer is of course that I have to endure all these negatives to experience the unutterable joy of Scilly.
    So, you have ‘got’ me and mine while we still can sacrifice other things to visit but you have no chance of persuading new visitors to come, and more importantly return , unless there is some vision and recognition of the need for change. We live in hope.

  8. Peter February 21, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    “…efforts had been made to promote Scilly by the Islands’ Partnership, to arrest 11 years of decline.”. Promoting Scilly is not needed. Changing Scilly is needed.
    “…the Council has brought in Blackpool Airport Management consultants”. Here we go again. More consultants, more waste, more stating the blindingly obvious at the rate- and tax-payers’ expense.
    Sharing airport personnel and management systems with Land’s End Airport is something I’ve been suggesting for some time. But there should also be sharing with Newquay Airport. It gives Scilly a link with London, Manchester, Dusseldorf, Edinburgh etc etc. And it strengthens links with Cornwall County, avoiding the unfortunate us-and-them mentality which often rears its ugly head. Seems obvious. Don’t have a committee or a working party. Don’t seek the opinion of management consultants. Do it. Have the guts and the vision.

  9. Nobby Nobbs February 21, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    I went to Truro a few weeks back, it took me two days to get there and cost me £300 due to cancellation, cost of airfare, additional days car hire and accommodation and while I was away I spent the entire time checking the weather reports to see if I was going to get back.
    If I lived on the mainland I could have had 3 nights in Rome (flying from Bristol) in a 3star hotel for the same money and for much less hassle.

    Unless the council can get a state subsidy for the transport link, this slide in footfall will continue. You can talk about it all you like, but its not going to stop people from getting a better return for their money elsewhere.

  10. m pean February 21, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Is it true that those who live on the islands travel at a much reduced rate to and fro to the mainland, and if so what are those reduced rates?

  11. Ray Wornes February 21, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    The meeting arranged by Amanda for residents to meet the new Council Chief Executive Theo Leijser and Councillors was very interesting. Mr Leijser’s presentation (without notes) filled me with hope that the Council will deliver a better future for Scilly with vastly improved representation for residents at half-yearly public meetings with all Councillors.

    It was reported that the Govt. is again cutting Council funding in which case I believe the Govt. must allow our Council to recoup some of that money in the same way that private companies do. We have a Council owned and run airport which is unfairly forced to operate at cost whilst the airline operator as a private business can make any size of profit it likes. I believe we were told that it would be illegal for the Council to make a profit from the airport and at Tuesday’s Transport meeting Councillors were told that it would be illegal for the Council to subsidise the airport. When taking into account inflation, will the freezing of airport fees actually deliver a loss? Having voted not to increase airport fees, are there business people just waiting to suggest that it should be sold off? Neither subsidising profit-making airport operators nor raising Council rates to address Govt. cuts is palatable.

    I would like that 3% inflation rise in landing fees and the introduction of a targeted £5 per passenger tax for visitors to help fund this community. It would appear that the only way this Govt. would allow the Council to obtain funding from this very valuable airport asset is to sell it off to a private operator who would, I’m sure, make even more money out of visitors and this captive community. Many people have to pay increasing fares, rents and rates out of very poor wages. We need to run the airport as a profitable business to aid the islands’ community.

    Representations could be made to Govt. to allow our Council to operate the airport at a profit. If it was true that a small rise in airport fees and fares would damage tourism then why is the IOSSC intending to implement considerable fare increases in March that could potentially damage tourism, thereby making more profits to benefit a few people who own and run the company?

  12. John Allsop February 21, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Do,s anyone really belive that freezing the landing fees will bring more visitors to the islands. It,s a good move but the high cost of getting to Scilly and cost of accomodation plus the fact that younger people seem to want things that Scilly can,t offer is the problem. The last time i was there the immpression was that it was a place where older people go and they had probably come with their parents and kept coming. Good advertising,affordable transportation to the islands and accomodation that is more affordable is the only way. More events like the Gig week need to be implemented. And the public around the world need to know. Increasing cost every year, and they are already high, will in time kill the tourist industry. 100 percent of nothing isn,t very much.

    • Peter February 22, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      John: re “younger people seem to want things that Scilly can,t offer is the problem”. Yes, quite, but change one word and you’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s not that Scilly can’t offer these things, it’s that many Scilly businesses WON’T offer these things. I’m sure I’m a complete bore on this messageboard, but I keep saying that the renewal of Scilly is possible if there is the will and the intelligence to make it happen. The post from someone a few weeks ago about transforming Hugh Town with lights, exotic plants, colour, palm trees, street markets and street cafes (i.e. make it look like the “tropical” climate it claims to be) was a superb description of what needs to happen. Plus, as I’ve stated umpteen times previously, throw out all the 1950s furniture from many of the B&Bs (not the one we’ve just booked into again, which is brilliant, modern and customer-focused – I won’t advertise), massively improve the eating establishments (most, but not all, are abysmal), keep the restaurants open later, create a night culture (not Ibiza though), and Bob’s your uncle. My wife and I are not wealthy. We know we pay a fortune to visit Scilly, but we know it’s worth it. Scilly will never be cheap. Accept that fact and work with it: a quality holiday at a quality price. My suggested changes would cost very little (we are not talking high-rise apartment blocks). One change would cost nothing: personally, I find most Scillonians to be friendly and welcoming, but I know some visitors have had negative experiences. It costs nothing to smile and greet people. Remember that we visitors pay your bills. Be nice to us.

      • Avid Spectator February 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm

        Nailed it!
        ‘It costs nothing to smile and greet people. Remember that we visitors pay your bills. Be nice to us.’
        Sometimes even I, a regular visitor feels that my presence is an unwanted one…

  13. Mister Simnel February 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    “She felt that not all passengers could access the lower rate and regular visitors would not take this well.” True but not everyone can fly to venice at the from £5 rate of some carriers. The from price is an advertising trick if you can benefit from it great if not I think most people accept it. Well done ISSCo for offering some tickets at the lower price.