Scilly Is One Of England’s ‘Greatest Assets’ Says Tourism Boss

James Berresford

James Berresford

Scilly is one of VisitEngland’s “greatest assets.” That’s the view of their Chief Executive who spent a day and a half visiting four of the islands last week.

It was James Berresford’s first visit and he says he’s impressed with the “magical’ nature of Scilly’s landscape and light.

James feels that the islands have a lot to offer with stunning scenery and nature. And he is full of praise for the warm and welcoming people whom he met.

He tells Radio Scilly that it was refreshing to experience the “energy” within our tourism sector and how everyone believes that the islands’ product is first class.

The Islands’ Partnership and VisitCornwall’s Malcolm Bell accompanied James on his short tour. Most of his trip was for fact-finding purposes but some locals did ask James for his views on how we might improve tourism

James says the declining visitor numbers are more to do with the competition that we face from international destinations, rather than a problem with the islands.

He’s impressed with what has been achieved so far with a limited marketing budget and is full-of-praise for the new tourism website. But James believes there’s more that can be done.

He feels there should be connectivity or mutual promotion between pubs, hotels, boats and services so that visitors get a better understanding of what is on offer.

There should also be inter-island marketing to encourage repeat visits, he says.

James accepts that Scilly is not the cheapest holiday option but says that we do need to be a “great value destination.” He suggests that we focus on “delighting” visitors with the experience of Scilly so that they don’t notice the price of travel so much.

More could be done to pursue the higher end of the market, says James, where price is not such a factor.

Now he has an understanding of the islands, he says he wants to help. James is arranging a Visit England workshop where islanders will be able to tap into the knowledge of his accommodation, food and retail experts.

This event will be held jointly with the Islands’ Partnership at the end of the season.

14 Responses to Scilly Is One Of England’s ‘Greatest Assets’ Says Tourism Boss

  1. Jeff Eastick June 4, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Admirable that people rally to the defence of Skybus from all directions and I would confirm that I was not intending to denigrate a company that I have used nearly every year since its inception for our annual visits. Weather is always the imponderable when planning trips to Scilly , and we have spent our share of time at Lands End airfield watching banks of fog rolling in. I was not referring to any particular cancellation , but simply expressing the hope that technical improvements may allow Skybus to operate safely in weather conditions that currently preclude their flying. Any improvement on this might just help to get the number of visitors increasing because that will be in everyone’s best interest.

  2. Heather June 4, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I think you are missing my point, Ann. Believe me, I was no great fan of BIH – but I was a fan of the 20 minute helicopter service from Penzance. When British Airways ran the service all those years ago (perhaps before your time?) it was extremely reliable: the helicopters were new, and breakdowns or delays were rare. Yes, I noticed a distinct deterioration in the service whilst BIH were at the helm, patching up well-worn hardware with flimsy sticking plaster, which ultimately contributed to their demise as far as the Scilly operations were concerned in favour of more lucrative operations in the north of Scotland.

    The point I was trying to make is that Skybus needs to – indeed, must – up its game (and I agree with Jeff Eastick here) that if they are to hold the monoply for transport to/from the islands, they must provide a much more robust and reliable service, which the paying public demands Of course nobody can help the weather Geoff Westick, and that is one of the downsides accepted by those travelling to/from Scilly. What needs to be introduced though if the islands are to remain a viable holiday UK destination is a different form of air transport so that disruption is kept to the minimum. Remember, the helicopter would invariably fly when the fixed wing couldn’t. So why isn’t Skybus considering a helicopter service? I have spoken to several long-term, and, indeed, also first-time, visitors, and the answer is invariably the same: that the service offered by Skybus is NOT reliable enough given the weather conditions experienced on the islands, and many people have stated that they will not return due to the unreliability of the transport. Nobody wants their – in this case, expensive – holidays ruined by travel disruptions do they?

    Scilly’s tourist industry – and I’m not just talking about the accommodation providers, but all the shops, craft outlets, taxis, restaurants and coffee/tea shops, boatmen, plant shops etc – is at great risk due to the inability of its sole transport provider not coming up with the goods, except in good weather.

    Skybus MUST upgrade its operations if the islands are to remain an attractive UK holiday destination – Scilly can simply no longer just rely on its immense beauty and charm in order to survive the huge competition worldwide.

  3. Jeff Eastick June 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Well said , Ann.
    I could not agree with you more. The record of BIH was far from perfect.
    However, Skybus are doing themselves no favours with cancellations and it is to be hoped that the upgrades planned for the St. Mary’s airport will assist in reducing such problems.
    Being a single transport provider brings added responsibility and they must front up to this if they wish to have an improved perception of their Company in future years.

    • Geoff Westick June 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Just trying to work out what cancellations you are referring to Jeff. The only ones on this page I can find are on someone elses comment and they were due to weather….. Hardly something the ISSC have control over and an accepted risk of flying to the islands over the last 50+ years.

      • Geoff Southstick June 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm

        Still trying to work it out myself as well.

    • Geoff Northick June 5, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Me also.

  4. Ann June 4, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Perhaps people are forgetting how unreliable the helicopter service was towards the end of its operations on Scilly??? With ageing machines regularly breaking down and sometimes even engineers having to be flown over from Canada to carry out critical repairs, I think people are beginning to view the helicopter service through rose-tinted spectacles now it’s gone. In reality, there were frequent problems with the helicopter service when one machine was out of action and the second was on hire to the armed forces or transferred to BIH operations on oil rigs in the North Sea. Not just for one day but quite often days or even weeks. It was NOT a reliable service and the islands were extremely unhappy about the service they were receiving from what was viewed as a premium and unique carrier. Please don’t start lauding BIH now it’s abandoned the islands and moved on to more profitable operations!

  5. Heather June 3, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Yes Angela, you are so right. Since the helicopter service ended the Skybus/Scillonian services leave a lot to be desired. I personally don’t like the fact that one single company has the monopoly on transport to/from the islands; plus the fact that whenever the weather is a little bit “iffy” there is disruption in the Skybus schedule. Skybus is merely just a fair-weather service, and Scilly deserves more than that in order to keep its tourism industry at the high end of profitability. In 40 years of regular helicopter transport to and from the islands, at all times of year – spring, summer, autumn and yes – even winter, I never experienced any significant disruption. However, having used Skybus only 3 times, in shoulder seasons, I have had to claim on my (fortunately premier!) travel insurance for the past 2 trips for cancelled flights/disruption/hotel bills/extra expenses etc. On one occasion I have sampled the “green about the gills” trip in desperation to get home, but would not choose that option as a matter of course.

    Skybus needs to get their act together and come up with a viable solution: reliable flights using suitable aircraft in variable weather conditions, and not simply transferring flight passengers to the (cheaper option of the) boat – for whatever reasons. Obviously I do not condone fiying in clearly dangerous conditions, but is it always necessary to cancel all flights for the rest of the day when the Scillonian is only half full, I wonder…?

  6. Angela Clark June 3, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I’m not sure James is right when he says declining visitor numbers are to do with international competition. Yes, it’s expensive for a UK holiday (and we aren’t in the Tresco league either, Jayne!) but it has been so worth the effort. What has tipped the balance for us is the withdrawal of the helicopter service.Like Heather, we have visited often, but sadly the extra hurdle of the prospect of travel to the islands as either a “green about the gills” job, or at the mercy of the weather on Skybus puts us off. We have had both those experiences! I expect many long term visitors feel the same.

  7. Heather June 2, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I totally agree with Jayne’s comments. I have been visiting Scilly for the past 40 or so years, twice or three times a year. Sadly though, since the helicopter service ended, I am not planning to return due to the dreadful unpredictability of the Skybus service. For me, it is a very expensive holiday – one week’s self-catering and transport costs me c£1000 !! An extortionate amount for a UK holiday! I can stay in 5* self-catering accommodation on the mainland and have (most importantly) no travel disruptions for half that amount. Unsurprising then that I haven’t made any plans to return to Scilly next year – for the first rime in 40 years. A very sad time indeed. Scilly is a very special place to visit – but sadly no longer at any cost.

  8. Maureen Chandler Portishead June 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Maureen Chandler June 1 2014
    So pleased that on James Beresfords first visit to Scilly he was aware of the ` magical nature` of the Islands. Think this is what all the `Scilly regulars` found on their first visit and is why they have become `regulars`. A lot of the `magic` probably comes from the fact that we are inhaling pure air that has crossed two thousand miles of Atlantic so we are all on a high!! And probably why Scillonians think the mainland smells! We first had this experience in 1959 and have enjoyed it every year since. There have been a few changes – but not many. The one constant that has never changed is Penzance Quay!!!!! That fight for luggage on the homeward journey – sometimes in pouring rain – and all the Scilly magic is gone as elbows are used when a visitor spots their luggage and nothing will stop them reaching for it. All part of the Scilly experience – and the only one that we could do without. Be there again in a few weeks.

  9. Tim June 1, 2014 at 11:23 am

    We should take note of your comments Jayne.

  10. Jayne Clifford May 31, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    I have been visiting now at least once a year since around 2000, introduced by my sister and late brother in law, I understand the value/cost comment but I’m not sure about focussing on the “higher end of the market”, we don’t all want to stay on Tresco ! The pleasure is there’s something for everyone and we all go for what we can afford !

    • LINDY June 4, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Agree totally with Jayne.
      A poignant fact.