An MHK has told the House of Keys that the gov’s Visit Isle of Man website ‘compares negatively’ with those of our friends in the Channel Islands.
Members were quizzing Enterprise Minister, Laurence Skelly on concerns within the tourism industry about the planned reopening of the borders in around four-and-a-half weeks time after an original question from Jason Moorhouse.
Bill Shimmins said he had been contacted by representatives of the tourism industry to say that they had concerns over the ‘messaging on the Visit Isle of Man website and how it compares negatively with the other crown dependencies’.
He added: ‘Is the minister aware that the Visit Jersey website says “It is the perfect staycation location and we’re now welcoming back visitors from the UK” and stresses safety. The Visit Guernsey website says “we’re excited to welcome visitors back from July 1, we can’t wait to see you”.
‘The Visit Isle of Man website says “the Isle of Man is continuing to work towards the ambition of unrestricted travel subject to the progression of the local vaccination programme as well as the developing situation”.’
Mr Shimmins’ reading of the websites drew laughter from his colleagues before he went on to ask Mr Skelly: ‘Which island do you think UK visitors will book to come and visit and why is the Visit Isle of Man website’s approach so different, so uninspiring, from the other Crown Dependencies websites?’
Mr Skelly thanked Mr Shimmins, who he called the ‘honourable member for the Channel Islands’ for ‘highlighting the benefits of visiting other islands’, which only drew further anger from Mr Shimmins who shouted ‘we should be looking after our own island, that’s the point’.
The Minister added: ‘Clearly there is competition and we fully accept there is competition and both those islands, particularly Jersey, had different border conditions right from the get-go so we clearly have taken a different route and we want to be sure before we start spending very valuable taxpayers’ money marketing our island that we can welcome them here and they will have an excellent experience. We know from last year, when we had the airbridge with Guernsey, how well our island was received. Guernsey travellers were coming back repeatedly to our island and enjoyed it so we are ready with regards to marketing and we will push that button when and as we’re ready.’
Mr Skelly was also asked what measures travellers to the island could face regarding positive Covid cases and the impact that could have on a hotel if that visitor was staying there. He said that the gov was in talks with the tourism sector about this and ‘strongly recommended’ they take up insurance to cover this.
Onchan MHK Julie Edge suggested that the Department for Enterprise has ‘failed’ the tourism sector of the island, something Mr Skelly rejected, and also asked why his department spent £500,000 on marketing if they weren’t yet ready to launch a Visit strategy for this year, a question which, reminiscent of the £1m spent on the TTs that never were, went unanswered.
Mr Shimmins rose again to ask Mr Skelly how much it would cost to update the website and what the cost was for not putting out more positive messaging, he added: ‘For every week that we lag behind in such an uninspiring way, inaction is costing us dearly, what is he going to do about this?’
The Minister said his department has ‘perhaps taken a cautious approach’ but said he would ‘rather have a visitor who is confident that when they do arrive on our shores, that they will actually have a good experience’.
He added: ‘Clearly, flexibility is very important because taking bookings and having to change any policy then that is a loss of revenue and that has happened in a number of other jurisdictions that have jumped the gun. Clearly, we are not going to do that but I would once more confirm to members that we are ready to market the island in full flow.’
Mr Skelly also confirmed, after questioning from Ms Edge, that Visit Isle of Man has an advert based around the previously used Extraordinary Story video. The video, with its theme of YourSpaceYourStory, can be seen below.
You can also check out the Visit Isle of Man, Visit Jersey and Visit Guernsey websites by following these links.