COVID-19 causes ferry pax numbers to fall by 28.2 million.

12 Mar 2021

Ferry Passenger, car and Coach Volumes Slump

In 2020, 28.2 million fewer trips by ferry were made on UK ferries, covering trips between the UK and Continent, UK-Ireland and domestic locations (including the London River Service). Numbers were down across the broad for all routes and all destinations. Along with the decline in passenger trips, the number of cars transported fell by 4.8 million and coach travel virtually ceased after March 2020.

As the purpose of travel radically changes

Data on passengers travelling between the UK and Continental Europe indicates that travel shifted from leisure holidaymaking towards social and business travel, with the time away lengthening (as more people stayed in their own second homes and with friends and relatives), with more people who did travel wanting to travel with their car, so they could take equipment like kids bicycles and sports equipment with them and the household pet. With more travel to stay in their own or friend and relatives’ homes, the need to stay in commercial accommodation declined, especially hotels.

COVID-19 also changed consumer priorities: finding a suitable, but not necessarily ideal, route became more important compared with the cost of the ticket.

These results come from two reports published by IRN Research:

  • Statistical Overview of the UK Passenger Ferry Market. This provides a statistical overview of the UK Passenger Ferry Market over 2012 to 2020, 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 – comparisons are also made with Eurotunnel and Eurostar. In addition, information is also detailed at a subsector level where: UK – Continent routes are divided into North Sea, Short Sea and Western Channel Sectors; UK – Ireland routes are divided into Northern Ireland, Central Corridor and Southern Corridor; and Domestic routes are divided into Channel Islands, Isle of Wight, Isle of Man, Scotland and the London River Services. Data for this comes from IRN’s monthly Ferrystat report.
  • Annual Ferry Survey. The annual ferry survey is survey of ferry and tunnel passengers and is organised in association with Discover Ferries and its ferry operator members. The members provide web links and send emails to invite their prospects and clients to complete the online ferry survey. An incentive of an entry into a prize draw for free ferry trips is offered.  This covers individuals travelling between the UK and the Continent. This year’s survey attracted approximately 1,600 responses from individuals, showing their purpose of travel, means of travel, accommodation used etc.

IRN Team

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