The States of Guernsey may seem keen to put any hope of a runway extension in a locked box with the key, located somewhere deep in the English Channel. However, with a new mandate between his teeth Chamber’s Tourism Policy Head Simon Vermeulen says the issue of lengthening Guernsey’s runway is only just beginning.
We seem to have spent months getting nowhere and even seemingly falling at the first hurdle when the Director of Civil Aviation Dominic Lazarus submitted a report saying he could not support the current plans made in the requete.
I feel he was somewhat premature as what is really needed is a full cost benefit economic analysis to be undertaken so any decision can be based on concrete facts and not in the States Chamber based purely on personal political agendas.
For many years I have felt passionately alongside many others in Guernsey’s tourism and wider business sector that Guernsey should at least have the chance to investigate fully lengthening its runway. PwC carried out a comprehension consultation into Guernsey’s airlinks and because the findings weren’t in line with our Policy and Resources Department’s vision, its publication and subsequent reporting was far from transparent.
Guernsey is open for business and we should maximise every opportunity to publicise this to the world community. Is there a more negative message than one which says no to progress and investigation? Don’t we need to move forward and be seen as a progressive jurisdiction which we are in other areas?
The Island prides itself on having a world class offshore financial centre yet the current States whilst funding this sector will not support an investigation into making the runway just as competitive. Jersey is competing with us for business daily and their transports links and facilities are leaving us for dust. If a potential client is comparing us side by side, connectivity and cost-effective travel are not on our side.
Lengthening the runway would not only enable more competition and lower cost carriers but it would also enable more charter planes to use the Island which is a vital link to Europe for our tourist economy. In two years’, time we will host the Island Games would it not have been fantastic if our runway would have been able to accommodate whole teams charter planes or to at least utilise low cost airlines?
We need our airport to be successful and a main driver of that success will be an increase in passenger numbers. As the recent open skies policy has proved and in particular the new Heathrow route there is appetite for travel at a lower cost. How often do we hear families unable to travel due to the cost of air fares or say the Guernsey to UK route of their holiday is much more costly than their onward travel. The cost per mile to travel from Guernsey is one of the highest in the World.
We don’t know exactly what the future of aviation will be but as with everything I imagine it will be progressive. We need to position ourselves ready to adapt and change and not be so limited to the Guernsey way. It’s all too easy to say no and it costs too much but until you’ve investigated it fully and fairly who knows?
Simon is an experienced Hotelier having built and managed one of Guernsey’s largest Hotels and surrounding resort for 40 years. A passionate advocate for Guernsey’s tourism sector and is now the Tourism Policy Group Head for the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce.