38 million passengers trips on ferries in 2018

12 Mar 2019

Continental ferries see passenger growth but Irish and Domestic ferries see falls

IRN Research published the Annual Ferry Market Report 2018, which provides a statistical overview of the UK Passenger Ferry Market based on returns from almost all UK passenger ferry operators. Although the market is made up of three market sectors – UK Continent, UK Ireland and Domestic routes some comparisons are also made with Eurotunnel. Also Included in the UK Ferry Market Report are results of the online UK Ferry Survey which provides insights into UK ferry passengers on UK Continent routes. The Survey was conducted between December 2019 and February 2019 and attracted 4,116 responses from passengers that had travelled by ferry/Eurotunnel in the last year.

38 million trips on ferries

In 2018, the UK passenger ferry market attracted 38 million passenger trips, marginally fewer than the previous year. The UK Continent Sector was the market leader, but only just, with 44.2% share followed by UK domestic sector with 43.5% share. In 2018, the best performing sector was the UK Continental route which saw passenger trip numbers rise by 0.7%, while the worst performing sector was UK Ireland. Over the longer-term (2010-2018), the Domestic route has outperformed both the UK Continent and UK Ireland routes.

Ferries carry marginally more cars

The ferry market carried nearly 1% more cars in 2018 compared with 2017, with 8.9 million cars transported. The UK domestic sector was the market leader with 45.2% share. followed by the Continent Sector with 41.8% share. The best performing sector in 2018 was the UK Continental, where the number of cars carried rose by 3%, while the UK Ireland sector saw a near 2% decline in the number of cars carried. Between 2010 and 2018, the Domestic sector has been the most robust and most able to grow its volumes.

Over 140,000 coaches carried on ferries

143,.682 coaches were transported on UK passenger ferries in 2018. This was 0.6% fewer than in 2017, with the decline focused on the UK Continent and Domestic routes. In 2018, 62.6% of coaches were transported on UK Continent routes. The UK-Ireland route has been the best performing sector for coaches since 2010.


Annual Continental Ferry Survey

Key findings from the survey are:

  • The decline in importance of France as a destination. Although it remains the most important destination by a wide margin, since 2016 Belgium has grown in importance as a destination among all continental passengers (ferry and tunnel combined).
  • The typical ferry user travelled to the Continent by ferry 3.3 times, which is on average fewer trips compared with tunnel passengers. Passengers on Short Sea ferry routes were the most frequent ferry users, with those taking the North Sea routes the least frequent.
  • Trip duration seems to have declined slightly in 2018 compared with 2019.
  • The main purpose of visits in 2018 were independent holidays, as was the case in 2017. Comparing 2017 to 2018, indicates that short breaks have grown in importance, which explains why the average trip duration declined in 2018 compared with 2017.
  • Typically, ferry customers book their trips up to three months in advance. Booking closer to the time of departure is more common on Short Sea routes compared with the other routes,
  • The internet is the dominant medium via which ferry and tunnel trips are booked, with passengers preferring to book directly with the operator rather than going via intermediaries.
  • The most important factor driving choice of trip is price/value for money, followed by suitable arrival port, suitable route and suitable departure port: in other words, getting from A to B at a reasonable cost.
  • Ferry and tunnel passengers are clearly happy with the services provided by ferry and tunnel operators. When passengers were asked to rate their last Continental ferry or tunnel trip, 92% of ferry passengers and 94% of tunnel passengers rated the trip as good or very good.






IRN Team

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