Bernard Binnington interview
An interview by Ted Vibert, published in Jersey Topic magazine in 1965
It was true tourist weather. The sun was shining brightly and it felt like summer. In an office in the Chelsea Hotel, Bernard Binnington, the young president of the Jersey Hotel and Guest House Association, was steadily exploding one of the greatest myths of all time — that in the last few years Jersey's tourist industry had shown an enormous increase and was in danger of getting out of hand.
Exploding this myth was no new exercise for him. And it is a subject about which he knows a great deal. Only a few months ago he headed a delegation to the old Island Development Committee, who were utterly opposed to any form of tourist development, to argue a case. "We lost," he said wryly, "but that was hardly surprising. Fortunately the new committee has a different attitude towards tourism. Logic is beginning to prevail."
Tourism a burden?
He said: "Every time the tourist figures are published people rush into print considering the development of the industry. You can never stop this, because there will always be those faddists who believe that tourism is a burden to the island and costs far more than the revenue received.
But those figures are most misleading when taken as a guide to indicate how many people are accommodated on the island at any one time. And this is the only figure that matters.
- "It is an established fact that the average length of stay of our visitors is decreasing slowly every year. From an average of 13 days in 1954, it shortened to 11.8 days in 1962 and at the present time is certainly no more than 11 days.
This means that as visitors stay for shorter periods, more accommodation becomes available for a greater number of people. I dread to think what our anti-tourist element will say if the average length of stay drops to seven days — our published figures will show a dramatic increase, which would be quite misleading."
He then clinched this argument by producing the figures of current accommodation available to tourists. In 1961, he told me, the total number of registered beds was 24,769. This increased by no more than an average of 180 beds per year until 1965, when a total of 25,504 had been reached, an increase of only 735 beds in four years. "Would you call that tourism running riot?" he said exasperatedly.
- "Despite new extensions this year the number of beds available is going to decrease. This is because a number of the smaller establishments are dosing down. The total number of registered establishments has dropped from 914 in 1961 to 793 in 1966. On top of this, many of the new building projects are aimed at improving existing premises, by putting in private bathrooms at yhe expense of bedrooms."
Man of ideas
Bernard Binnington is a man with very definite ideas, which are based on fact. He is a man vitally concerned with the success of the tourist industry, and with the protection of his members. He represents 92 per cent of hotel and guest house proprietors in the island.
His association enjoys close contact with the States Tourism Committee and he regards this as essential. However, they are often poles apart on policy matters.
- "It is difficult for a politician to run an outfit in the same way as a businessman runs his business. Tourism is a big business, but the drawback is that it is political. Take our most recent trouble. The hotelier is being asked to spend £2,000 to help the Tourism Committee mail out the tourism literature, which includes our own "Invitation to Jersey" brochure which we produce. Does that make sense? Isn't the hotelier ploughing enough back into the island's economy?"
- "Make no mistake about it, the hotel business is not a vast money-spinner. A well-run establishment will get back about the same amount if the money was invested wisely. It is commonly held in Jersey that hoteliers make a fortune. Far from it."
How about competition from other areas? How worried was his association that Jersey was lagging behind?
- "We are sadly aware of it. Remember that we do travel and see what other places are doing. And don't forget we are the people who have to bear the wrath of the visitor when it's raining. One of these days the States should be taken on a conducted tour of Europe, so that they can see what we have to fight.
- ”They have no idea how fierce this battle is that we have been pitched into. And the truth is, we are sadly equipped for such a battle. I believe firmly that the Jersey hotelier gives tremendous value for money. With real support from the government and the ploughing of capital in to amenities we would fear no one. This is long term planning, which no one
bothers to do."
And the licensing law? "The whole thing is lopsided and damaging to our tourist trade. It needs a complete rewrite and we will be more than happy to do what we can to help."
Mr Binnington runs the Chelsea Hotel in Gloucester Street with his two brothers. The hotel was started by his grandmother and has been run by the family ever since. It is a hotel that opens at Easter, full, and closes in October, full. With this sort of passion for the tourist industry we should be hearing a great deal of the Jersey Hotel and Guest House Association in the next few years.
Editor’s Note: Jersey also heard a great deal of Bernard Binnington, who entered the States in the 1970s, and became one its most influential members over a number of years. He was awarded the OBE for his services to the community.