Interview: Visit Jersey sees opportunity in domestic surge

Tourist board’s chief executive Amanda Burns tells Samantha Mayling how the Channel island is preparing for the summer

Brits can’t holiday overseas until at least May 17, but they will be able to hop on a plane or ferry to take a break in Jersey from Monday (April 26).

The boss of the tourist board says the island is “Brit-ish” – familiar yet exotic – and there is plenty of capacity available for consumers seeking a staycation in the most southerly island in the British Isles, 14 miles from the French coast.

Amanda Burns, Visit Jersey chief executive, said: “We can’t wait to welcome people back. Everybody on the island is geared up for visitors. This is a golden opportunity.”

She said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the forthcoming tourist season, thanks to the wider trends for staycations, late bookings and trade support.

“There is lots of availability so we are trying to encourage people to book,” she said. “Bookings look positive from July and August but it is slower in May and June.”

As part of its Safer Travel Policy, the island will reintroduce its own red, amber and green categories for visitors from the UK and other Crown Dependencies, so those coming from the lowest tier only need to record one negative test before being free from self-isolation.

Free PCR tests

Visitors from green destinations can get their own PCR test arranged before travelling or they can take a free test upon arrival, then explore the island once a negative result is confirmed, which is expected to take about 12 hours.

They also have to take PCR tests on day five and day 10 if they are still on the island – again, these are free.

The tourist board expects categories for each UK region to be revealed shortly.

“We hope the clarity and certainty of travel policies and capacity will mean more visitors will come, especially as more and more UK regions become green,” said Burns.

Last month, Visit Jersey launched its ‘Rebalance Closer to Home’ marketing campaign, which aims to capitalise on growing demand for domestic holidays, as well as outdoor breaks, relaxation and activities. It hopes the campaign, which runs until June, will reach nine million adults in the UK via digital and national print advertisements and partnerships with airlines, operators and the travel trade.

“Confidence and reassurance are key, alongside highlighting what a fantastic destination Jersey is,” said Burns. “We talk to operators, travel agents and partners to reinforce that message.”

She said trade engagement had never been stronger, with her team having trained 4,800 agents last year.

“We cannot wait to welcome agents back on fam trips. They are such important influencers,” she said. “Consumers want support from travel professionals in periods of uncertainty and this is where the trade shines. There is a demand for knowledge and reassurance and there is trust in agents.

“Our relationship has grown with agents and tour operators, as they are coming to us for information. We are keen for the trade to use our creative assets – there is a fantastic portfolio of images and inspiration.”

The Rebalance Closer to Home campaign prompted a 40% increase in website visitors over the Easter bank holiday period, compared with the same period in 2019.

“The encouraging news is that it has continued to be above 2019 levels,” she said, adding that about a third of website visitors are new.

New routes

She highlighted new routes by airlines such as, Loganair and British Airways, alongside services from the likes of easyJet and local carrier Blue Islands, saying: “There is really good coverage throughout the UK. The range of airlines shows confidence in Jersey as a destination. Jersey has been put on the map and we’re keen to leverage that and reach new audiences.”

The tourist board is analysing potential markets by behaviours and interests, rather than just age and lifestyle.

Its research will provide insights about how wider consumer trends could translate into interest in attractions on the island, spanning cuisine, history, heritage, family adventures, luxury, nature and outdoor offerings.

“Coming out of Covid, we are all re-evaluating priorities – there will be a rise in more-considerate consumerism,” she said. “Jersey can harness that. “We also missed celebrations over the past year – major birthdays and anniversaries.”

Burns noted “the period between booking and travelling is narrowing” adding: “We need to be ready for that.”

Consumer perceptions

The tourist board is also seeking to broaden perceptions of what Jersey has to offer. The island is renowned for its sandy beaches, cuisine, festivals and Second World War sites, but Burns said TV shows such as ITV’s The Real Housewives of Jersey had helped to give consumers a different perspective.

She also pointed to an audio-visual Jersey-based project curated by music festival Camp Bestival and DJ Rob da Bank.

Launched by ArtHouse Jersey in March, the Roaming Soundtrack features music that can be heard by scanning a QR code at listening posts at sites around the island.

“We also have nature, historic buildings, castles and prehistoric tombs – the island really packs a big punch,” she said.

Premier Holidays sees surge

Premier Holidays has seen bookings to Jersey spike 200% across February and March.

Marketing executive Jessica Wildman noted a “definite increase” in consumer confidence since the island announced the opening of its borders.

She also pointed to “unheard-of special offers and enhanced deals” at hotels to help switch-sell customers who would usually book a European holiday to Jersey, which she noted is “the sunniest spot in the British Isles”.

Wildman said Jersey was an “appealing choice” for cyclists, walkers and those looking for “a blast of fresh sea air”, noting other activities include a plethora of watersports, glamping at Durrell Zoo, yoga, electric bike hire and Ice Age walking tours.

The operator reported a 30% increase in booking revenue, with a rise in demand for four and five-star properties.

Most Channel Islands breaks are for seven nights, but Premier Holidays said shorter breaks had grown in popularity this year, largely driven by “tactical offers”.

Jersey’s Covid rules

The island will reopen to British travellers from Monday, April 26.

Red, amber and green classifications will be reintroduced for arrivals from the UK and other Crown Dependencies.

Visitors will have to provide their travel history in advance, and take free PCR tests on arrival and on days five and 10.

Jersey’s tourism sector has created a Visit Safe Charter to safeguard visitors’ wellbeing in hotels, restaurants, guesthouses, bars and visitor attractions.

About Jersey

Jersey is a Crown Dependency; it is part of the British Isles but has some of its own laws.

It is in the Common Travel Area, so British visitors aren’t required to complete the UK government’s Travel Declaration Form.

Flights take about an hour, with links from 23 UK airports.

Ferry crossings are available from Portsmouth and Poole.

The currency is sterling but the island has its own Jersey pound.

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