An industry of passion that gives the Island so much


Royal Yacht Hotel. Jersey Hospitality Association JAI Breakfast. ..Simon Soar of Jersey Business. Photo: ROB CURRIE. (31947418)

All sectors of the industry are encouraged to get involved as we attempt to reset after the pandemic and Brexit. Before lunch, IoD Jersey sat down with a range of industry experts to get their thoughts on the way forward with constructive and actionable suggestions.

This week, it’s the turn of the hotel industry and Simon Soar, former head of the Jersey Hospitality Association, and now head of hospitality and tourism at Jersey Business.

Q: Hospitality and tourism have obviously had a tough 18 months, and the industry’s lingering issues such as staffing are well documented, but what do you think are the underlying issues in Jersey?

Simon: Basically a lot of visitor accommodation is asset rich and cash poor due to the cost of the past 18 months, and the visitor demographics have changed dramatically. This is why you see some hotels closing, because the buildings are sometimes no longer suitable for their function. The bottom line is that this is a huge opportunity to look at our offering to visitors as a whole. Conduct an island-wide product assessment. Are we where we should be? Is the offer adapted to the demographics? Are we providing what the locals want? Do we offer value and that doesn’t mean cheap? Do we offer a good selection of local products? We have many strengths unique to Jersey, not just potatoes, dairy, lobsters and oysters.

Q: There has already been a lot of talk about recruitment problems, but what are the solutions?

Simon: These issues are global and not just local because the pandemic has stopped transitional work and some people have chosen to leave the industry. However, we need to review the operating environment provided by our industry. People don’t want to work in a place where they don’t feel valued. They shouldn’t feel like they have to give up their social life or work more than 70 hours a week. They must have a work-life balance and be well paid, with skills upgraded for career advancement. Quite simply, we have to respect those who work for us and value people. Hospitality is a great, flexible working environment.

Q: It’s not just about staffing. What else do we need to look at?

Simon: This operational review should also include reassessing how we interact with customers, the hours we operate, our offering, is it profitable and the right thing? Is this the good use of our resources? The pandemic has forced our industry to review procedures and therefore productivity has improved in many cases. However, we cannot now let the market fend for itself: this would be a huge missed opportunity.

In my role at Jersey Business, we look at what are best practices. Is it fair to continue to support companies that are not forward looking and to support staff? Those who pay the minimum wage to staff in private rentals, and do not pay overtime or invest in staff training? What product do we need for visitors and locals? Hospitality and tourism venues that have invested in their product and their range are booming. It shows the opportunity we have and I think we can make our island wide industry a world class standard so people want to come to the island.

The average age of those who come this year has dropped considerably. They were blown away by what Jersey is offering, so now we need to make sure they keep coming after the pandemic. They spend less time on the island but spend more. This is not a bad thing. Higher visitor turnover better protects our connectivity.

Yes, we will see a reduction to about 7,000 beds next year, or about two-thirds of what we were two years ago. Let’s make sure the product we have left is appropriate, fit for purpose, and designed to deliver the right experience. We used to be compared to places like Spain; our prices don’t allow us to be comparable now – we’re closer to places like Monaco. So is our product offering aligned and comparable?

Q: So who and what is going to make this change happen? Is it due to the industry or the government?

Simon: At Jersey Business, which is an independent organization, we do a lot of this review work. However, I personally think we should be saying to businesses, “If you’ve seen a drop in the number of your guests, is your product aligned with what it should be? We will help facilitate this work. We are in a position to have almost a blank canvas. As an industry, we should be dictating what our future looks like, erasing the slate and creating a fantastic product.

Q: What would you say to Islanders and those who run for office next year?

Simon: Never underestimate what hospitality and tourism do for the quality of life on this island. Don’t think that we are providing nothing more than a low GVA (Gross Value Added). We underpin every social interaction. We support all transport on and off the island. We support the quality of life we ​​enjoy. By neglecting the industry, the long-term impact could be devastating. If other industries want to attract quality candidates, they won’t want to come here if there isn’t a good quality of life here.

I don’t think people will respect the industry until we respect our people and appreciate everything we do. By constantly believing that we need to lower the prices and do things cheaply, we devalue our product and devalue the skills of our people and our value to the industry. Good value for money doesn’t mean you have to charge too little – it means putting the right price on what you offer. There are many examples of great business practices in the industry, and we can all learn from each other with it.

We’re an industry of passion, and you can see companies that have that passion pour out of them. This is what we should be proud of and shout about.

LIOD Jersey’s Leaders’ Lunch is sponsored by HSBC and takes place on Thursday 25 November at the Royal Yacht Hotel & Spa. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite. More information on the IoDJersey website: events.


Leave A Reply