October visitors down - is it a blip or a sign of harder times ahead?

A Happy New Year to everyone who follows this blog. It's good to be back after the festive season.

Now if you were to come up with a list of days of the year to bury bad news, then Christmas Eve would come pretty near the top of the list. That may be why Jersey Tourism chose that day to release October's staying visitor statistics.

After a year of generally positive figures, October saw a significant drop on the previous year. Leisure visitor volumes dropped by 7% to below 30,000 and the average length of stay also fell by 3%. As a result the increase for the year dropped to just over 1%, or 4000 additional people.

More worryingly, business visitors also fell for the first time this year (by 6%). Business visitors' revenue makes an important contribution to the tourism pot in the winter months, when leisure visitors are less inclined to travel.

So what should we read into these figures? Did the credit crunch and Northern Rock publicity affect people's willingness to take a short break in the autumn? It would appear so. The loss of low cost services operated by Thomsonfly may also have had an effect.

Is it a blip, or should we be worried about the impact of UK economic difficulties for 2008? It's impossible to predict, but my guess is that it is going to be a tough start to the year. I expect peak season sales to be sluggish until the spring and the remainder of this winter to be tough with both leisure & business visitors thinner on the ground than last year.

Jersey Tourism's TV commercial started airing on Boxing Day. Let's hope it is having the desired impact. If it is, we'll probably hear about it. If not, then the spinners will probably wait until another good day for bad-news burying comes along.

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