EasyJet warns Island may have too few hotel beds

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The operator is considering launching two new routes between Europe and the Island in summer 2019, but Ali Gayward said that easyJet would not be able to expand its links if Jersey did not have sufficient accommodation for visitors.

Mrs Gayward said that easyJet had enough capacity to fly up to 750,000 people to and from the Island this year, an increase of around 40,000 compared to 2017.

According to figures released by the States statistics department, the number of beds available to visitors has been in decline for a number of years.

In 2000, there were 18,112 hotel bed spaces available but this figure has now fallen to 10,498 – a decrease of 7,614.

The news comes after the announcement on 2March that the number of visitors coming to Jersey had reached its highest number for 16 years, with 413,000 staying leisure visitors and 314,000 business visitors.

Mrs Gayward explained: ‘If we thought there was not sufficient bed stock, it could serve as a barrier to growth. There is absolutely no point in operating flights to a destination if people are not able to stay there.

‘We saw this, for example, last year and the year before during the political problems that there had been in places like Egypt and Turkey.’

She added: ‘A lot of airlines stopped flying there and instead, at short notice, started flying to the good old favourites such as the Canaries and the Balearics and we simply ran out of hotel bed stock.

‘We were selling seats at £22 or £23 but people were paying £200 and upwards a night for their hotel – that is bonkers because we fly out planes with empty seats.’

Speaking about potentially expanding the airline’s Jersey operations, Mrs Gayward said that she was currently looking at which new routes they might be able to start in summer 2019.

However, the airline boss added that although there may be proven demand for a new link from the Island it might not be possible if aircraft or staff were not available.

‘I think there are one or two European routes that we are going to look at particularly closely but I cannot say what they are as things might change.

‘In Spain, for example, we have a seasonal base in Palma, we have got a base in Barcelona, but looking at those two countries specifically, unless we are growing a base by adding more aircraft, it might be that we actually have to cancel or reduce the frequency of an existing route.’

She added: ‘Both Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly are full so we cannot add any more aircraft there and we cannot get any more slots to operate, so that limits what we can do.’

Keith Beecham, chief executive of Visit Jersey, said that although the number of available beds had fallen, he could not remember a time since he took on the role three years ago when every type of accommodation in the Island had been full.

He also made reference to the new 90-room Premier Inn, which is due to open in May.

He said: ‘I do realise that there is a smaller number of beds than we have had in the past. One point which must be noted is that the figures do not include B&Bs or guesthouses, or beds available through Airbnb. If they are under six beds then they do not have to register with us.’

The tourism chief added that the tourism season was starting to become longer, with tourists visiting later in the year when more beds were available.

He added: ‘While we have lost capacity we have gained a better spread of visitors throughout the year.’

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