Advanced bookings for the Yarmouth, N.S., ferry are up five-fold compared to last year at this time, the head of Bay Ferries Ltd. said Friday.
The company took over the service last year after the province pulled the plug on its previous operator, Nova Star Cruises, in 2015 amid mounting bills.
“What [Bay Ferries is] showing at this point is a five-fold increase over booking levels … at the end of April this year compared to last year,” said Mark MacDonald, chair and CEO of Bay Ferries, which runs the ferry between Nova Scotia and Portland, Maine.
“It’s a massive increase, but last year we were just getting going and sales started later, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.”
MacDonald said they collect the information and share it with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia to ensure there’s enough hotel capacity for their passengers.
Compares to bumper 2007-08 years
MacDonald won’t make any predictions for the rest of the season, which starts May 31 and goes to Oct. 15.
Bay Ferries previously ran the service until 2009, so they compared the new figures to historical ones.
“It tracks along with what we were doing in the 2007-2008 timeframe,” said MacDonald.
“If we look at how those seasons ultimately worked out, that’s when we were running in the 90,000- to 100,000-passengers-a-year level.”
He declined to disclose the actual advanced-booking numbers.
MacDonald said he thinks people who took the ferry last year spread the word.
“We know people liked the service last year because we did a comprehensive customer survey at the end of the season.”
96% of passengers would recommend it
Through a corporate research company, they contacted 10,000 passengers with a survey that took about 20 minutes to complete. They got 3,100 full responses.
MacDonald said of those, 93 per cent said the service met or exceeded expectations. Some 96 per cent said they’d recommend it to a friend.
“Our advisers on this tell us those…