Blog 28 Apr 19On Thursday the Cabinet Office published the 2018 Passenger Survey, which confirmed a small increase in overall visitor numbers for the Isle of Man last year.

The announcement also included a restatement of the 2016 and 2017 figures following a change of methodology. The Survey confirmed that the number of visitors in 2016 was actually 308,000 and there was a small decrease to 305,000 visitors in 2017.

The figure in 2018 was back up to 308,000 and although this is still only a survey it is also based around more accurate information received from the Steam Packet Company and some airlines over the past 12 months, and we are working with the remaining airline to obtain even more accurate passenger data going forward.

Step back 12 months and the headlines were “Isle of Man Tourism Blamed for a Lack of Drive” and one MHK was calling for the DfE Minister to resign.

Other reports in the UK national press stated a 9% slump in visitors in 2017 when the 2018 Passenger Survey was published last year, and they also revealed a sharp fall of 25,000 visitors from 292,328 to 266,850, which at the time very few people outside the Cabinet Office could understand, myself included.

Especially when all the information we had received throughout the year had showed that there was little or no movement in 2017, which has now been proved correct over the past 12 months.

Once again I have to thank the island’s accommodation providers last year, along with the Steam Packet Company who seriously questioned the 25,000 fall in visitors when the Survey was originally published by the Cabinet Office just before the Easter Break last year.

Local media articles reported this week that the number of people travelling to and from the island by sea fell by more than 17,000, which is technically correct, but not from a visitor or tourism point of view.

I enclose a link to the 2018 Passenger Survey for ease of reference:

https://www.gov.im/…/2019-02-22-passenger-survey-annual-rep…

Page 5 of the 2018 Passenger Survey (table 3) showed the overall departures (for both locals & visitors) at 272,900 in 2018, which was obtained from the Steam Packet’s own data, which represents a decrease of around 17,000 Passengers.

However, page 6 (tables 7 & 8 actual show visitors using the Steam Packet actually fell by only 9,700, but during the same period air passengers actually increased by 12,300.

This is clearly down to visitor choice and the availability of more convenient flights to and from the UK.

Personally, I love being the Political Member responsible for tourism and motorsport on the Isle of Man, and I know the negative headlines last year hurt the tourism team who continue to work tirelessly to promote the island as a destination of choice on behalf of hotels, restaurants and attractions etc, and let’s be fair, on a shoestring budget compared to Jersey and Guernsey, and other jurisdictions.

We now have the Visit Isle of Man Agency up and running, which has also increased the overall level of dedication and drive to promote the Isle of Man even further and turn the island back into a genuine tourism location for walking, cycling, golf or just a family break etc, but more needs to be achieved over the next few years.

Talking about being a tourist, the weather on the Isle of Man over the Easter Holiday was fantastic, and it was great to see so many people out walking, cycling or just enjoying the long weekend – apologies to those people who had to work….

I also held my Political Surgery last Saturday, which was a little silly but I thank the couple of Constituents that called in for a quick chat.

Unfortunately, when I pencilled in the original dates I never thought to consider bank holidays.

As for the rest of the bank holiday weekend, last Sunday Ellen and I headed out early to continue our walk around the Raad ny Foillan Coastal Footpath, which hugs the island’s 95 miles of coastline.

We parked the car at the Castletown Train Station before making our way down to the Castletown Promenade to join up with the Raad ny Foillan Coastal Footpath…..

From there we went through Castletown on to Scarlett Point and followed the coast around along Gansey until we reached Port St Mary and then on round the coastal path to the Sound Cafe for a well deserved rest, and an ice lolly each….

Unfortunately, the path from the Sound to Port Erin was closed, so we had to climb up the hill on the road from the Sound before taking a side road near Meayll Circle into Port Erin to catch a bus back to Castletown.

An excellent 14 mile walk with some amazing views along the way, and we have now completed around 54 miles of the Raad ny Foillan coastal walk.

Bank holiday Monday was a day of rest and visiting family and friends, and although my legs were fine from the walk on Sunday, I had definitely caught the sun on my arms and face.

I was also able to stay at home on Tuesday as I had no meetings or briefings scheduled. The day was spent going through a large agenda pack for our DfE meeting on Wednesday morning, along with a considerable agenda pack for the Public Accounts Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

I also had to deal with several Constituent phone calls.

Robin from Hinton’s in Onchan called around the house at lunchtime to give me a quote for a new TV, which will be put on the wall.

I continued to work on the PAC agenda pack and from late on in the afternoon I was able to continue working on my projects, but certainly not a difficult first day back at work…

With the good weather continuing on Wednesday, I took the opportunity to walk in to the office, which only took 40 minutes and I still arrived for 8am.

First job was to respond to few emails which I’d received overnight.

At 9.15am I walked over to the DfE for the usual Minister and Political Members’ catch up before the board meeting, which started at 10am.

We didn’t have any pre-meetings this week with Agencies, so it was straight into the agenda pack.

The meeting finished at lunchtime, which gave Ellen and me an opportunity to go out for noodles at our regular eatery, located on Prospect Hill.

We only had about 30 minutes as I needed to speak to the Clerks in respect of a particular paper being discussed by the Public Accounts Committee, which started at 14.00.

Another packed agenda and it was a long meeting lasting almost three hours, but much of the work is still ongoing so I can’t add anything more at this particular juncture.

Just enough time to send a few emails before heading home at 17.15.

At 19.00 I drove into Onchan for a fund raising meeting at the Onchan Scout Hall. I was hoping to also attend the Friends of Onchan Heritage, but I needed to respond to a couple of urgent emails that I received at tea-time.

Up early on Thursday which enabled me to walk into the office at 7.45am. It only took 38 minutes and I also managed to walk one of the miles in 13.47 minutes, which has to be a record for me I am sure.

Thursday was definitely a stressful day for some reason.

This was despite only having one meeting scheduled on Thursday, which was a motorsport meeting that was a general catch up with the team ahead of this year’s TT Festival.

That particular meeting started 10am and lasted over 90 minutes.

As for the rest of the day, well it was spent at my desk and I must have spent at least three hours on the phone speaking to various people on all sorts of topics.

Based round historic events involving MHKs and staff, I am very cautious as an MHK when it comes to employment issues. That said, how far should an MHK push for fairness, openness and transparency when a Constituent is clearly being treated unfairly and is about to lose their job?

I am proud when people take me into their confidence and it does anger me greatly when I see the unfairness, but I am powerless to stop it despite my protests….

I also had to draft several letters before leaving the office at 17.15am and once home I also needed to draft a few emails before finishing for around 19.00.

It also emerged this week that the Groudle Glen Waterwheel will be restored, which is fantastic news.

Someone posted online this week, why didn’t I do more to restore the Wheel when I was an Onchan Commissioner? The simple answer was the costs involved, I could not justify or support spending up to £250k of ratepayers’ money at the time, so this very kind and generous offer from a local company is wonderful news.

A big thank you to my MHK colleagues Daphne and Martyn for all their work in making this happen.

Back in the office for 8am on Friday to get on top of Constituent work, and the first hour was focused around an employment issue from Thursday.

At 10am another Constituent called in to see me relating to an ongoing historic medical issue that I have been involved with for many months, but unfortunately I am just unable to get the result the Constituent wants, mainly because of the length of time involved.

We also had around 80 pupils in the Legislative Buildings on Friday for the Bright Futures Conference, so it was nice to spend a few minutes in the Tynwald Chamber listening to the speeches and debate.

At lunchtime I met up with a local architect to discuss an ongoing constituent issue.

In the afternoon I started putting together information and documents to review over the weekend, which related to an oral session with the DEFA Minister and the Head of Planning in a couple of weeks’ time, along with documentation relating to an ongoing project I am looking at for St Peter’s Church in Onchan.

I also found an hour to input my expenses, which I have overlooked, maybe it was because of the headlines it generated last year.

Ralph Peake, MHK and I also had to help out a constituent with some questions around the new Manx state pension, which involved several calls.

It was definitely one of those weeks in which it was hard to fully explain everything I had to do, and despite spending most of the week in the office, I still have not caught up and will need to find a few hours over the weekend.

As for the weekend, well it will be a busy one… as I mentioned in a previous Blog I travelled to the IPA World 8 Ball Pool Championships in Bradford recently to make contact with the IPA and its Chairman, in order to try and set up an annual event here on the Isle of Man.

The Chairman will be on island over the weekend for his first fact-finding visit to the Isle of Man, so I have scheduled several meetings with hotels on Saturday. I will probably also be a tour guide on Sunday after taking Ellen to the airport, and on Monday there is a busy schedule of meetings with Government officials and other individuals.

Full details next week….