Tuesday, November 29, 2011

From the Falklands: A 2011 Perspective

The wildlife-rich Falkland Islands get extensive coverage in my new third edition of Moon Handbooks Patagonia, which has recently appeared on the shelves. To get a further update for upcoming season, I conducted an email interview with Paul Trowell, the Falkland Islands Tourist Board’s general manager. I was particularly interested in developments for independent travelers, rather than the cruise ship passengers who constitute the bulk of the Islands’ visitors. The interview has been condensed and edited for continuity.

WBB: What is new for the Falklands this season?

PT: The Falkland Islands are going through a strong period of growth in 2010/2011, in fact forecasting a 16 percent increase in numbers. This has resulted in the creation of a new National Tourism Strategy that caters for increased infrastructure and marketing initiatives to cope with the growing demand. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality, I cannot disclose the initiatives in the plan but as soon as I can I will update you.

WBB: Are the international flights looking full for this year?

PT: I suggest contacting International Tours & Travel (se.itt@horizon.co.fk), the local LAN agents, for flights from Chile, and the Falkland Islands Company Limited (fic.travel@horizon.co.fk) for details about the [Ministry of Defence] air link from Brize Norton [the Royal Air Force’s Oxfordshire base]. At present, flights leave Brize Norton on Sunday and Wednesday. We do not have access to forward bookings for release to the public but last year’s statistics show an increase in LAN, decrease on MOD.

WBB: Are there any new accommodations this year? What does demand look like for this season? Is the oil boom affecting the availability of accommodations and other services for tourists, in Stanley and in Camp (as the countryside is known here)?

PT: There has always been a shortage in peak time, November to February. We encourage travellers if they are coming in this time to book in advance. There is an additional cottage on Bleaker Island.
Oil exploration is affecting the availability of accommodations in Stanley (pictured above), where there is a total of about 220 beds, but not in Camp, though we’re conducting some research now.

WBB:  Of all visitors to the Falklands, what is the percentage of or approximate numbers of independent travelers (as opposed to cruise ship passengers, pictured below on Stanley's tourist jetty)? What sort of contribution do they make to the local economy?
PT: The 2010/11 cruise season closed with a total of 42,000 passenger arrivals. Compared to the 2009/10, the number of cancellations has been few (only four vessels with a total of 2,659 passengers), however, the numbers are still down compared to 2009/10 when 48,359 cruise ship passengers arrived in the Falklands.

Average spend per passenger is up however, to £34.50 from £32.82 last season. This means that almost £1.4 million was spent on the Islands by cruise passengers, with 43 percent of this being spent on tours, 38 percent on shopping, and 16 percent on food and drink.

The FITB Cruise Passenger Survey showed that 50% of visitors had visited the islands before, and almost one quarter (24 percent) stated that the Falkland Islands were “essential” or “very essential” factor in their cruise itinerary decision. Over one quarter (27 percent) said that they would like to return to the islands on a land-based tour.

Land-based arrivals grew 14.8 percent, totaling 6,739, and the average spending per head increased by 20 percent (or £100) to £595 in 2010. In total for 2010/11 overall, visitor arrivals by inbound overnight tourists, cruise passengers and domestic tourists resulted in 61,563 tourists, spending £5.41 million, an 8.4 percent increase over 2009/10.

WBB: Is there an abundance of local flights?
PT: There are no problems booking FIGAS flights that we are aware of but we suggest contacting FIGAS (jross@figas.gov.fk) directly.

WBB: What percentage of independent travelers come from the United States?

PT: Thirteen percent from the USA.

WBB: Of all independent travelers, what percentage of them return to the Islands? Do you have any idea whether many cruise ship passengers return independently?

PT: Our stats from January 1, 2000, to date suggest that 13 percent of travellers are on a second visit, 2.1 percent are on a third visit, 4.1 percent are on a fourth visit and 15.1 percent have been more than four times. [On the latter stats,] you may have to contact the local shipping companies who deal direct with the cruise lines.

WBB: What are the most popular destinations in terms of visitors?
PT: We do not have this breakdown in our stats but Sea Lion Island (pictured above), Pebble Island, Carcass Island, Saunders Island, and Bleaker Island (pictured below) would all rank highly.
Moon Patagonia – On the Road Again!
Well, just down the road, really. Earlier this month, an attack of bronchitis caused me to postpone an appearance at REI Fremont43962 Fremont Blvd., Fremont, CA 94538, tel. 510/651-0305. We have rescheduled the event for tonight, November 29, at 7 p.m. It’s free of charge, but this is a small venue, so attendees should make reservations online or by telephone with REI.

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