JERSEY’s government could take a stake in commercial operators or subsidise key travel routes to protect the Island’s connectivity, the Economic Development Minister has told the JEP.
While he made it clear that this was not yet government policy, Deputy Kirsten Morel said ‘anything [was] possible with government intervention in terms of travel links’.
‘I can’t explain the reticence of previous governments. What I can say is that I am completely open to all ideas about how to make this work and it could involve – that’s not definite – a level of ownership or, although I hate the word, subsidy,’ he said.
Deputy Morel’s comments reflect a concern that any further decline in the number of visitor beds for tourism – which has now fallen to 8,597, a reduction of almost 1,000 on last year’s figure – could adversely affect the Island’s connectivity.
‘To lose connectivity would have an impact on the finance industry. It would have an impact on our quality of life because what Jersey people share is a love of travelling abroad. And it would have an impact on the wider business community,’ Deputy Morel said.
The minister observed that both the government of Guernsey – which owns Aurigny – and the council of La Manche, which funds sea links from Normandy to the Channel Islands, had invested directly in their transport links. He said that he would consider speaking to the council in La Manche about Channel Islands services if the current issue of the passport requirement to travel to Jersey from France – which the council say could lead to the withdrawal of the service – could be resolved.
‘I am very open to having a conversation with La Manche to say “if we get the ID cards over the line, how can we help you develop this into an inter-island service that serves the island communities”,’ he said.
The minister also pointed to the wider benefits for the Island of improving flight connectivity with Guernsey to help support some of the newly announced air routes, including the EasyJet connection with Amsterdam.
‘You can develop it into not just bringing people to Jersey but if you have really good inter-island connectivity between Jersey and Guernsey, there’s no reason why Jersey can’t become a hub for the Channel Islands, so that the flight from Amsterdam connects really well with a flight for Guernsey, for example. I know hoteliers say we want them to stay in Jersey – well, we do but we also want the Channel Islands as a whole to succeed because, as 160,000 or 170,000 people, we can do far more economically than we can on our own as 100,000, and that speaks to Guernsey as well. It means that [it] can benefit from wider connectivity to Europe which it doesn’t currently have and, to be honest, is unlikely to get,’ he said.
Discussing the wider economy, Deputy Morel also told the JEP that it was likely that the government would seek to provide short-term start-up rentals at discounted rates on two units in the Central Market to help Islanders ‘who have interesting, innovative retail ideas’ establish their businesses. He said there was no timescale for this, it would be dependent on premises becoming vacant.