Results of the Survey regarding the importance of the Southampton Airlink

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SOUTHAMPTON AIRLINK TO ALDERNEY’S BUSINESS COMMUNITY: YOUR RESPONSE WAS OVERWHELMING! 

Following Council’s meeting with Deputy Charles Parkinson (Economic Development Committee) on Tuesday 12 November, we invited all our members to let us have your feedback regarding
i)    The financial implications to your business if we lose the route
ii)   Other ways it could affect your business model – such as fewer staff, relocating etc.

Thank you for your comments which initially amounted to over 18 pages of comments, and have been consolidated into 2 pages.

The letter and report below was sent to all members of the Guernsey Committee for Economic Development and was also handed to all our States Member and CEO Andrew Muter.

8th November 2019 – by email and post
The Economic Development Committee
States of Guernsey.

Dear Deputies,

The Alderney / Southampton Route

As a consequence of a survey carried out by the Alderney Chamber last week to its members, every response concentrated on the negative impact that would be created to the economy if Alderney were to lose its direct Southampton sector.

Below is Chamber’s report.   We would ask that it be considered and included within your discussions.   Following our recent meeting with yourselves, we would be pleased to offer further information and to continue our dialogue on this critical subject

The Perceived Loss of the Alderney / Southampton Route is completely unacceptable.
This has been the overriding result from last week’s survey by Alderney’s Chamber of Commerce.

Businesses from the finance, tourist, medical, education, retail and transport sectors agreed unanimously that any such decision to axe the Southampton sector would be commercially, morally and socially incorrect and inappropriate.

Chamber has found it impossible to quantify the financial implications to the island within its economic sectors, other than to confirm that it would have a highly significant negative impact to Alderney’s gross income and therefore to its overall welfare, future economic ability and, of course, its tax implications.

Our tourist sector – including hotels, guest houses and self-catering – has confirmed that it relies on the direct Southampton route for between 50% and 60% of bookings.   One manager commented “Our financial results during the past few years have fallen significantly as accessibility to the island has decreased.”

A more specialised self-catering business on the island confirmed that up to 90% of its customers travelled directly from Southampton. “They choose this route to avoid added time and incompatibility of connecting flights to Alderney if they were to go via Guernsey. We have people who have booked with us for 2020 who are still not able to book their flights.   Many have told us it would affect their decisions to continue to visit the island if they could not fly from Southampton.   This route is the lifeline of our business.”

A further long established island business commented “We need to offer maximum flexibility for business customers, and part off that is direct flights to and from the UK.”

One restaurateur said that in the time he had been in Alderney “I have seen this lovely island spiralling into poorer and poorer transport links.”

All sectors agreed that a decision to pull Southampton would, in all probability, lead to reduced employment in their businesses.   Within the finance sector we heard that it could also be a reputational and logistical issue to the extent – as one group commented – that “business may be better placed within our Guernsey office for ease of access.   The loss of the direct UK link would only serve to reinforce this opinion.   We also feel it would be considerably more difficult to attract professional staff without the Southampton route.”

It is not Chamber’s wish to portray negativity, we are simply relaying to the States of Guernsey – and to the States of Alderney – the damage that will be caused which could culminate in a reduction to the island’s tax collection which in turn would result in Alderney being a greater financial burden to the Bailiwick of Guernsey.   We do not wish for this nor want it under any circumstances.

As another retailer suggested – “There will be a damaging and cruel blow to the people of Alderney if Guernsey is not prepared to assist in securing our direct Southampton route.”

One observation from the self-catering sector suggested that such a loss would not only detrimentally affect income to its holiday homes, but would logically impact many other sectors of the community such as the island’s restaurants and retail outlets.

As to the current Aurigny flights to and from Southampton, a further hotelier was exasperated by “the list of delays, bumping, diverting and cancelling over the past few years.  It has become the norm and something we are now just expected to accept.   That is so very wrong.”   They also commented, as has the finance sector, that it was difficult to recruit staff to move to the island and that it would be much harder to do so if we lost Southampton.

The hotelier also remarked “I think we have reached a stalemate, and without improved links, prices and maintaining the Southampton route as a priority, Alderney’s economy won’t survive.”

In conclusion, the Alderney Chamber urges the States of Guernsey as a body and, in particular, its Economic Development Committee and its States Trading Supervisory Board, to understand the serious concerns that Alderney has along with its wish to be more economically strong and therefore less of a financial burden to Guernsey.
Yours faithfully,
Andrew Eggleston
President – Alderney Chamber of Commerce

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