Around 28,000 tickets sold so far for 2023 sailing season
Bay Ferries says as of July 11, it had sold 27,999 tickets for passengers who will travel on The CAT ferry during the 2023 season.
The ferry operator says the ticket tally represented an increase of 5,115 passengers who were booked over the same timeframe last year.
In terms of actual traffic so far this season, the ferry – which sails between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, Maine – had transported 10,063 passengers and 4,018 vehicles to and from Nova Scotia as of July 11.
The 2023 sailing season began on May 25. From that date to June 26 the ferry sailed four days a week. On June 29 its schedule changed to seven days a week.
From Sept. 7 to Oct. 9, when the season ends, it will sail five days a week.
Bay Ferries provides monthly updates on ticket sales. When it provided its update last month, there had been 19,649 tickets sold for the season as of June 5 – so ticket sales increased by 8,350 since then.
About the season numbers so far, Bay Ferries says in a July 12 media release, “This seems consistent with observed national trends suggesting that U.S. resident vehicle land border traffic to Canada continues to be recovering from the pandemic, but remains below 2019 levels.”
Bay Ferries says other factors have had some impact on travel this year, including the Nova Scotia wildfires in the early part of the operating season and recent poor weather conditions.
Its peak travel months are July and August.
As of July 11, the ferry had completed 30 round trips with three round-trip cancellations due to weather.
The ferry operator says while passengers book their tickets well in advance of their trips, traditionally many book closer to their travel plans.
“The majority of our customers still tend to purchase within two to three weeks of travel,” Mark Wilson, senior vice president of Bay Ferries, told Saltwire this season.
Still, he said, other factors such as the certainty around booking accommodations or planning trips around events also cause people to purchase tickets further out.
The provincial government has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to conduct a broad economic impact study on the ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine. It issued the RFP earlier this month. The province says the study will collect data over two sailing seasons to account for potential fluctuations in passenger numbers.
While the province knows what it spends on the service, this is the first major study to examine what the ferry service gives back in return to the economy. A final report is expected in late 2024.
The provincial government contracts Bay Ferries to operate the ferry service. The current contract ends after the 2025 sailing season.
In 2022, the ferry service received $17.9 million from the province to support its operations. Last year the ferry transported 36,151 passengers and 14,972 vehicles. It made 113 round trips. Twelve round trips were canceled last year because of weather, many relating to Hurricane Fiona, which also lead to about 2,000 canceled passenger tickets.
Last year was the first year the ferry had sailed in three years, following a two-year hiatus brought on by COVID and a canceled season due to construction at the Bar Harbor terminal.