Partnership Members Hear Scilly’s Tourism Is ‘On The Way Up’

Islands Partnership AGM Oct 2015Scilly’s tourism economy is on the way up. That was the upbeat message delivered yesterday at the annual general meeting of the Islands’ Partnership, where it was also revealed that tourism is now worth £50m to our islands’ economy annually.

But Chairman Robert Francis was keen to stress that Scilly businesses can’t take further market growth for granted.

Robert says the weather always helps, especially to encourage people to rebook for the following year.

He says it’s unclear whether this summer’s poorer conditions will have an affect, although bookings for 2016 appear to be doing well so far.

Over 700,000 people clicked on the tourism website last season.

It’s more than a 30% rise on 2014 and Executive Director David Jackson said the Partnership wants to increase the conversion rate so more interested web viewers actually come over.

There are many reasons for the upturn. Instability in North African destinations is one factor as well as the improving economy.

But David said the IP’s promotional efforts are also bearing fruit because our visitor numbers are up 9%, whereas Visit England has reported a 9% fall in overnight stays across the country this year.

He said that the Partnership has made “huge strides forward” with the busiest year for PR activity to date.

Targeted promotion to families, pre-school families and over 55’s – the so called ‘active empty nesters’ – would continue along with campaigns to attract solo travellers, yachters and ‘cash rich, time poor’ couples without kids.

That group is most likely to pursue the short break market.

Scilly will be promoted as part of a government funded £5 million Westcountry marketing campaign targeting potential visitors in the United States, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Scandinavia and Ireland.

Scilly will be represented by images of the islands with the slogan ‘Hop from Isle to Isle.’

The new IP events team will also develop more reasons to visit.

David said that their new regatta event will be a celebration of our maritime heritage over August Bank Holiday, from the 26th to 29th of the month.

Some members have reported empty rooms at this time and it is hoped the event will help fill spaces.

During the question and answer session, FRIST coordinator Marian Bennett wanted to know when the IP’s transport survey results will be made public.

David said the directors would decide that, but he did reveal some top-line figures in response to Marian’s questions.

There had been a surprisingly low response rate for such an emotive issue – just 40 replies.

David said that calls for a year round boat service and helicopter were low down on the wish lists submitted. And responses were evenly split over the introduction of Sunday flying.

IP director and Steamship Company Chief Executive Rob Goldsmith said the company wants to flatten the peaks and troughs in passenger movements.

Spreading passenger movements over seven days and stretching the season would help to achieve this.

But Rob reiterated that there has to be more support for Sunday flights from the entire business community and not just larger players. And there won’t be seven-day air services next year.

That’s because of the uncertainty over availability of air traffic controllers, and the Council’s decision to hand back the airport lease brings too many questions at this stage.

Rob said there would be Sunday Scillonian sailings again in 2016 although numbers were down this year, mainly due to bad weather dissuading day-trippers.

Staying on the water, David Jackson and Robert Francis paid tribute to volunteer cruise ship greeters who act as Scilly ambassadors.

The islands’ have experienced their largest cruise ship season to date, but not all IP members are convinced that the effort is worth it.

There were suggestions that Hugh Town had been ‘swamped.’

Nick Jenkins questioned whether Scilly was “killing the golden goose” by encouraging short daytrips on the liners rather than longer overnight stays.

He wanted to know whether cruise ship promotion was being monitored for effectiveness in encouraging return visits.

David Jackson explained that this year cruise passengers were given Scilly postcards that could unlock discounts when making an independent journey, so we should find out.

Karen Phillips spoke out and confirmed that she had received guests who returned after they discovered Scilly on a cruise ship visit and John May felt that town retailers benefitted from the extra passengers.

Nick wondered whether the cruises could be scheduled away from Sundays, when shops are often shut, but David explained that it was up to the operators and beyond local control.

Speaking to Radio Scilly after the meeting, IP Chairman Robert Francis said that David Jackson has made a real difference in his first year as Executive Director.

Robert feels his previous experience promoting the city of Bath has brought “a whole new dimension” to tourism efforts in Scilly.

At the end of the meeting, two new Directors were announced following the members’ ballot earlier in the day.

Tresco Abbey Garden curator Mike Nelhams, Deputy Land Steward Luke Humphries and IoS Country Guesthouse owner Sabine Schraudolph were up for the two board seats. Sabine and Luke were elected.

5 Responses to Partnership Members Hear Scilly’s Tourism Is ‘On The Way Up’

  1. Vaughan Ashby October 23, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    As a regular visitor for the past 37 years and having cumulatively spent over a year of my life on the islands, including 25 years of bringing birdwatching groups to the islands, I think that I have a pretty good idea of the things that tourists expect of the islands and what makes them return. There are many attractive things about the islands, the scenery, the ease of getting boats to off islands, the varied accommodation and the friends we make there. There are however, a number of things which visitors (and I’m sure residents) find frustrating. First and foremost is the amount of traffic, Scilly has some excellent roads now but all this seems to have done is increase the speed of the traffic. On many roads there are no pavements and where they do exist, they are in an attrocious condition. Last week I picked a lady up on the Strand, she was trying to pull her suitcase and had fallen over it because of the rough surface; surely resurfacing the pavements has to be seen as a priority as visitors don’t drive cars and benefit from the nice smooth roads. Many people now walk in the road because the pavements are so bad, certainly wheeling a suitcase is better on the road! Many of the cafes seem to close early, some days only two of the cafes outside Hugh Town were open, not a good impression, especially around the Pelistry area. Also, it was extremely difficult to find food for groups some days with the Co-op having run out of food, and nowhere else to buy things for lunch. In a previous comment an islander suggested that I take my group to one of the other shops to buy their sandwiches/pies but there simply was nowhere. I am fully aware of the logistics of getting things to the islands but surely it cannot be beyond the wit of man to get food in on the Scillonian or Gry as one or both of them are in daily. Can they also not bring a bit of tarmac to resurace the pavements as well? You already have a contractor on site with personnel and equipment. Also, there is now no regular bus service, agreed that you have an excellent taxi service but to get one you need mobile phone reception and this is patchy to say the least, both you and the taxi have to be in a reception area and that is also subject to you having a contract with the right network operator. These seemingly minor things are remembered by visitors and can tarnish the views of visitors to your beautiful islands.

    • Ian T. October 24, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      I totally agree with a lot that Vaughan has said as a visitor for over 50 years and a resident for 14. But, in another article, the planning application for the Tregarthens extension has been deferred which means a delay of at least a year for the works whatever they may eventually be. I ask, therefore, where are all these new visitors going to stay. Scilly has got to bite the bullet and realise that increased prosperity can’t come without change.

      • Ernest Admirer October 25, 2015 at 8:02 am

        I totally agree with Ian after all you have been coming here for 27 years longer than even Vaughan. I don’t agree with the bit about biting the bullet as this sounds remarkably dangerous. I also don’t agree about rushing planning as this could lead to more carbuncles like the airport (oops sorry I forgot that didn’t need planning as it was probably passed by the Steamship board).
        I don’t totally agree with Ian about building more accommodation as surely the first goal should be to fill the property that already exists moreover the constant construction on the Islands is becoming a blight in its own right. In short apart from your comments I totally agree with everything you say.

        • Ian T. October 26, 2015 at 9:46 am

          I agree the existing accommodation should be exploited to the full but I don’t think peak season is a problem though the shoulder periods often are anywhere. Unfortunately you can’t often persuade people to come early or late season for many reasons.

          As to rushing planning, it seems common amongst planning committees everywhere to delay making decisions in the hope, possibly, that the applicant will go away.

        • Incredulous October 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

          What a ridiculous comment about the airport and the Steamship Company. St Mary’s airport was redevelopment by the owners (the Council) and the Steamship Company had nothing to do with it. Compare that to the recent developments at Land’s End Airport and the beautiful new terminal building which was planned by the Steamship Company. I would much rather that they had been involved with the redevelopment at St Mary’s. But why let the facts get in the way of a good bit of Steamship Company bashing, eh Ernest?