Another missed opportunity to pull in the holidaymakers

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According to the organisers, there will be ‘ten internationally acclaimed stars and more than 500 local artists performing beautiful and atmospheric music in stunning settings around the Island’. There will even be a yacht concert in Beauport bay. It’s a pity that it’s largely going to be a waste of time.

I shall be there, and no doubt a large number of other local music lovers are looking forward to the festival, but it’s unlikely that there will be enough of us to fill any of the venues. That means it’s very doubtful that it will be a financial success, and the organisers are apparently already struggling with sponsorship just a few weeks before the event.

A few tourists who happen to be in the Island at the time and who manage to stumble upon news of the event will no doubt attend, and perhaps they will go back home and tell their friends about it. Next year some of them might even come back to help put the festival on the map. If it survives.

In the meantime, the millions of other music lovers in the UK will be totally unaware of the festival having taken place. Certainly, apart from a mention on the Tourism website, I cannot find any evidence of any marketing of our ‘international’ music festival.

I certainly can’t find any tour operator or hotel offering a package which includes taking part in the festival. It’s almost as though we are trying to keep it a secret so that non-locals can’t get involved.

Unfortunately, this is yet another example of our half-hearted approach to event tourism, which is supposed to be so important for the future of the tourism industry.

It’s true that the Tourism Department have got behind the Liberation Music Festival to the extent of handing over £5,000 to the organisers. This is either too little or too much.

It’s certainly too little if the aim is to ensure financial success for the event, which is estimated to cost £50,000 to stage. But it’s too much if the purpose of the subsidy is to help the tourism industry. It’s doubtful that a single tourist will be attracted to the Island by the festival because they simply won’t know it’s on. I managed to find one mention on the Classic FM website, but it took a lot of searching.

Marketing a small island such as Jersey is difficult because we can’t afford to spend as much as the big players in trying to get our message across. That’s why it’s such a pity that we are apparently going to miss an opportunity to target a specific audience which is fairly easy to identify and get to.

It’s not the organisers’ fault. They are deeply involved with putting together a community event, and probably marketing is not their strong point.

You can’t even blame the marketing experts at the Tourism department because they have enough on their plate and very little money to work with.

But if the Island is to attract special-interest groups or just tourists looking for something a little different, then we’ve got to do a lot better.

Some people have got the right idea. Not only have the owners of the renamed hotel The Inn spent a lot of money upgrading and promoting the premises, they now offer holiday breaks based around one of the most popular of hobbies – photography.

The five-night break includes advice and help from one of the Island’s leading professional photographers, practical demonstrations, excursions and a competition. I wouldn’t mind going on it myself.

It’s certainly not a new idea. I remember one local hotel group offering special-interest holidays on fishing and flowers many years ago. But it has to be done properly, it’s probably hard work and we are not talking about tens of thousands of potential customers.

On the other hand, it gives visitors another reason for coming to the Island. It’s also another way in which Jersey can differentiate itself in a fiercely competitive global industry.

With a little imagination, thought, investment and considerable marketing, it could become another lucrative niche business.

Jersey Enterprise are certainly trying to help, and their recent presence at an outdoor activities exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham should attract more people to the Island with this special interest.

But Jersey hardly registers on the map for special-interest holidays, yet there is so much more scope for the tourist sector to harness the ingenuity, expertise and talent to be found in the Island.

So that is my message for this week, for what it’s worth. I was actually going to write in this column about the mindless and irresponsible youngsters who have run amok in St Helier yet again. But the least said about some of our immature States Members, the better.

Peter Body is editor of Business Brief magazine

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