The State of Britain

Gibraltar hosts the International Island Games, Channel Islands’ inflation ticks up and a new ferry terminal for the Isle of Man approved

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Despite not being an island, Gibraltar hosted the International Island Games this month, a competition that gathers athletes from over 22 islands. The Island Games Association has an eclectic membership with many of the islands under British sovereignty. For example, participants include one Greek island, Rhodes, one Spanish island, Menorca and Gotland in Sweden. The 2019 NatWest International Island Games saw over 3000 competitors and officials attend from across the 22 member islands. Gibraltar’s sports facilities were redeveloped throughout 2018 but due to the lack of venues the games did not include archery, cycling, football, or volleyball, which have been in all previous games and were replaced by tenpin bowling, judo, and squash.

Whilst the games have helped visitor numbers, the number of cruise ships visiting Gibraltar has dropped 30% this year according to data from the Gibraltar Port Authority (‘GPA’). Passenger numbers between May and August are down c46,000. The GPA data showed passenger numbers in May were down by 18,672, June by 10,654, July by 1,324 and August is forecast to be down by 16,196 cruise passengers. Reasons why operators have been put off visiting, range from the general deterioration of the Rock’s tourist product, street cleanliness and uncompetitive rises in berthing fees compared to rival destinations.

Channel Islands

The governments of Jersey and Guernsey have announced the annual changes to their retail price index (RPI). Jersey’s RPI increased by 2.8% over the period, while Guernsey went up by 1.8%. In Jersey, housing costs rose by 5.0%, with price increases in house purchase costs, rents, water charges and repairs and maintenance costs. The key upward drivers were rents and the increased cost of house purchases. Leisure services also increased by 4.1%. In Guernsey, leisure services also saw the largest annual increase at 10.0% but this was partially offset by fares and other travel costs which showed the largest decrease at -10.1%.

On transport, Guernsey’s States have voted to introduce a vehicle tax based on distance travelled although the details on how this will operate are unclear. One proposal was to track the distance covered by motorists via GPS devices but this has raised civil liberties concerns. The States current system of fuel duty, where drivers are taxed based on consumption of petrol and diesel contributes significantly to public funds but with the switch to electric vehicles underway, collecting revenues this way is not viable in the medium term.

State owned airline, Aurigny, says Guernsey’s quasi open skies policy – airlines no longer need an air transport licence to fly to and from the island – has created an uneven playing field. The airline is also critical of the subsidy paid to Flybe for its London Heathrow route. Despite this, its annual report has shown in 2018 both its turnover and profits increased.

On development, Travelodge wants to expand to Guernsey as part of a £165m coastal plan, creating 25 jobs on the island. Earlier this year rival Premier Inn obtained planning permission for a 100-bed hotel as part of a £35m development at Admiral Park which is expected to be completed by December 2021.

Isle of Man

The Manx government has approved funding for a £38m passenger ferry terminal in Liverpool, £6.5m more than originally estimated. The terminal will be able to accommodate up to 1,000 passengers and 200 vehicles and is due to open in March 2021. It will be built at Princes Half Tide Dock, about 700yds from the existing terminal at the city’s Pier Head.

Also on transport, the Island’s Ronaldsway Airport could be run at arm’s length from the government, in a similar way to the arrangement with the Steam Packet Company ferry operator. The airport currently makes an annual loss of £3.7m. A plan of the proposed changes will be presented to the Tynwald in April 2020. The airport would remain in public ownership but run on a commercial basis by a private operator, potentially saving taxpayers £1m.

On development, The Isle of Man has been named as the ‘preferred host’ for the 2027 Island Games. Twenty-four island nations take part in the competition, which is held every two years. The Island previously hosted the inaugural games 34 years ago, and again in 2001. The island team performed well in this year’s Games in Gibraltar. Athletes will now have somewhere to stay after the opening of the first hotel run by an established budget accommodation chain. Douglas’s new Premier Inn is a six-storey 85-room development which will complement the Island’s traditional older bed and breakfast-style rooms. Premier Inn has created 35 new jobs.