Haut La Garenne - the impact for tourism

Eights days after the first revelations of child abuse at the former Jersey children’s home were revealed to the world at large, the media attention on our small island is unrelenting. Today’s Sunday newspapers do not make for pleasant reading and clearly the investigation into the various strands of this horrific story will continue for weeks, months and probably years to come. Every day it seems more dreadful stories emerge of suffering endured by children at the home. Now we hear of intimidation and threats to those brave enough to come forward with their own tales of abuse. There is possibly even worse to come.

To me it feels as if I am living in some kind of parallel universe. The beautiful island I am privileged to live in seems so far removed from the dark, and in parts dishonest, image now being portrayed to the world outside. Watching the news each evening, it is hard to believe that this is all going on 3 miles from where I live. The situation has not been helped by the complete incompetence of The Chief Minister, Frank Walker and his advisors in dealing with the media. Some of the most basic rules have been ignored and as a result, embarrassed the whole island community.

As well as having to come to terms with these revelations, the tourism industry has to consider what impact the Haut La Garenne investigation may have on their businesses. Not surprisingly I, along with others, have been keeping a close eye on the daily sales data to see if there has been a fall in bookings or enquiries via the website or telephone. So far we appear to have remained immune, with sales last week remaining strong and not one ‘phone call from concerned clients.

However, it’s very early days. Much business generated at this time of year is for business people (who have to come here) and weekend break couples (who can probably divorce the historic abuse story from the Jersey of today). I believe the impact could be felt over the next 6-8 weeks as we start to see more peak summer bookings. Parents, in particular, may feel uncomfortable bringing their children to a place with such a dark shadow hanging over it.

So what do we do about it? The media coverage is completely out of our control and may continue for some weeks to come, depending on what further investigations reveal. However, we will continue to run our marketing campaigns as planned and seek to reassure anyone concerned that the island is a beautiful, safe destination to take a holiday or short break.

Jersey is going to have to accept that the past week has shifted the image of the island in people’s minds. It is too early to tell how much damage has been inflicted on our image as a tourism destination. For now my thoughts are with all those who suffered abuse or worse and a sincere hope that all those who perpetrated these deeds are brought to justice.


Anonymous said...

Well said Robert - This is not the Jersey that we know and love and wish for other people to share in our enjoyment. Our Island reputation has been severely tarnished and our collective pride severely dented. In order to restore faith and trust we need for the police to go about their business unheeded, fully supported and totally focused on finding the culprits, bringing them to justice and to bring this sad, sad episode to a full closure regardless of the repercussions.

To the Chief Minister and Senator Syvret...JUST STOP IT! Your public animosities are doing nothing to help the numerous victims and their families nor the many tens of thousands of innocent Islanders who already feel blighted with guilt and the shame of ignorance. As a community we fully recognise right from wrong - we expect better and we want this situation dealt with honestly, properly and professionally by people who we can trust.

Away from the horrors of whatever may have taken place at Haut de la Garenne and elsewhere we are all going to have to work that little bit harder to earn a new confidence from visitors to these shores.

Tourism, also, is built upon trust – holidays are not products that you can just put in your pocket and take home, they are a series of experiences, intangible things like memories of good times which at some future time, suddenly, from nowhere, come back to make you smile again.

Let us as an Island put all our efforts to re-kindling that much needed trust for everyone’s sake.

David Seymour
Managing Director
Seymour Hotels of Jersey

Anonymous said...

David, I found you blog comment interesting but wish to point out the following:

1. As one of the abused and speak for many others who were abused, it cannot be business as usual until the matter has been fully addressed regarding the truth.

2. We should take a page of of the book of South Africa with regard to reconciliation. Do some research, it will indeed help your future comments on the matter, you will then speak from a point of authority on the matter.

3. If it were not for Stuart Syvret, the atrocities we suffered would not be made known as publically as they are. To him I say Thank you, If you were abused you would also want someone to champion your cause.

4. Jersey tourism must drop the word "Historic" when mentioning Haut de la garenne. It offends me deeply as it depicts rather a discounting of recently made known facts also the abuse suffered, life lost. It is an insult to the living and the dead!

5. I agree the wheels of our economy depend on tourism, however a country is known for the integrity of its people, people do read one than one fact and one blog - spinning it can never alter the facts - they happened!

6. To those people out there that think Jerseymen are a bunch of inbreeds who play dueling banjo's, you are mistaken. We are a proud people attempting to deal with perhaps one of the largest problems we have every faced. Rather than condemn us, attempt to understand us, our failings, our history and unwillingness to have a future plan to reunite our broken society, for it is broken but not lost. It is time for change. It is not an offense for a society to feel guilt or shame in what has happened - it is the first admission towards a road of healing and reconciliation.

7. I think pointing of the finger should cease and rather hands embrace to work toward a common understanding. It is our island, we are its people. So if you are considering coming to Jersey for a visit, do so and be part of the change.

Leo - "The voice of reason"

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