Sark Newspaper 30 November 2018

8 Last week the local media were trying to put a posi- tive spin on bad news for Guernsey’s tourism sector with the jubilant headline that “ Cruise ship tourists boost visitor numbers in Guernsey ”. When reading the text below the headline, it becomes clear indeed that the news isn’t jubilant at all. The latest statis- tics show that overall visitor numbers to Guernsey has dropped by 5%. The number of people visiting from the UK was down by 3,300, whilst the number coming over from France has dropped by 41%. The only thing buoying the numbers up is the cruise ship market, which we all know consists of visitors who don’t stay in hotels, don’t eat in restaurants and spend very little when away from the ship where they have an all-inclusive ticket. These figures should send alarm bells ringing in Sark since the Island’s tourist industry, which is its principal economic driver, is, in the absence of a Customs post and direct transport links with main- land Europe, wholly dependent on visitors coming over from Guernsey, the crumbs falling off Guern- sey’s table. This year’s tourist season is well and truly over. The statistics collated by The Sark Newspaper shows that a total of 54,736 passengers were carried to Sark during this season. Many of those passengers will have been Sark Islanders travelling over to Guernsey for various reasons, but even including those passengers, only an average of 249 people a day have chosen to come to Sark this season. It is less than the number of people walking into just one of Guernsey’s more popular restaurants every day of the year - one single business. This number is nevertheless supposed to sustain Sark’s entire econ- omy, which of course it isn’t as it is an impossibility. Sark has only one option if we are to create an econ- omy that can sustain life here: open up to direct tourist trade with mainland Europe by establishing border control. It is a no-brainer. Unless there is fog, the coast of France is so close that you can pick out the buildings and beaches when standing on Sark. Barely an hour away, it is so near, yet so far. The numbers carried this summer by Manche Iles proves that the market is there. A growing number of French tourists intrepidly underwent the long detour via Jersey and the inevitable wait for Cus- toms clearance there before travelling on to Sark. It is open to the imagination how many would come if the travelling time was cut by two-thirds through direct links between Sark and Dielette, Carteret or Granville. We know that the shipping operators stand ready. This proves that they too believe there is a profita- ble market there - a substantial market consisting of continentals who would very much like to come to Sark, if only we would make it a bit more conven- ient for them. Our tourism-dependent economy is at stake, that’s been highlighted often enough by this publication. We must never forget that equally at stake is Sark’s reputation, national and interna- tional. A Customs post will not only boost our tourism- dependent economy, it will: • Enable us to gather much-needed statistics. • Enable us to control who really is here and who they are. • Enable us to ascertain who truly is a Sark resi- dent in accordance with the long-promised defi- nition. • Enable us to stop Sark being abused as a step- ping stone for drug traffickers and gunrunners. THE FIGURES CAN’T LIE 2018 SEASON TOTAL NUMBER OF PASSENGERS TRAVELLING TO SARK during this season, IoSS and Manche Iles, 54,736 AVERAGE NUMBER OF VISITORS PER DAY: 249