UK Passenger Ferry Market has mixed fortunes in 2017

29 May 2018

IRN Publish the UK Ferry Market 2017 report

In 2017, the UK Ferry Market had mixed fortunes. While the number of cars journeys grew, passenger numbers and the number of coach trips declined.

Continental passengers down, but domestic and Ireland up

Total passengers on 75 ferry routes were down by less than 1% overall compared with the previous year, with the decline centred on the UK-Continental routes, where competition from Eurostar (rather than Eurotunnel) intensified.  In contrast to the Continental route, the UK Domestic market (+1%) and the UK-Ireland market (+2%) enjoyed rising passenger numbers in 2017.

Domestic and Irish car journeys up

The total number of car journeys grew by around 1% on the previous year, with growth reflecting sustained growth in car carryings on the domestic (+2%) and UK-Ireland (+2%) routes. The top performing ferry routes in 2017 were to domestic destinations such as the Isle of Wight, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man, Channel Isles and Scottish Islands and to Irish destinations such as Belfast, Dublin and Rosslare. This is particularly good news for the sector as more people recognise the advantages of enjoying the flexibility, value and freedom of a break by sea rather than the pressure of travelling through an airport.

Continental coach journeys fall sharply

The number of coach journeys declined in 2017 by almost 5%, with the decline again centred on the UK-Continent route. This seemed to be a general trend impacting the UK-continental travel market, given that Eurotunnel coach journeys also declined in 2017.

France the main destination for continent bound passengers

Over half of all UK Continent ferry and Eurotunnel passengers (51%) travelled to France in 2017, with Belgium (10%) being the second most popular destination. In 2017, 80% of passengers using Western Channel routes were destined for France as their main destination country compared with only 7% of passengers using North Sea routes. Around three quarters of UK Continent ferry and Eurotunnel passengers travelled more than once on a ferry in 2017 and more than a third travelled between 3 and 5 times.

This report 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. In addition, some information is 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 and Scotland.

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 in January 2018 and attracted around 3,144 responses from passengers that had travelled by ferry/Eurotunnel in the last year.

 The report (36pp, PDF), is available directly from IRN Research, priced at £500. UK sterling price is plus VAT so total price is £600.


Related IRN Content

UK Maritime, Shipping and Admiralty Law market

Ferrystat and Freightstat Reports 



IRN Team

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