The ferry sector generates £8 billion a year for the European economy and employs 109,000 across the continent, according to figures presented at the annual Interferry conference.
Held earlier this month in Santander, Spain, the conference also heard that there are almost 47 million ferry passenger journeys in the UK during a normal year, and 15 million vehicles carried on ferries operating from the UK.
Abby Penlington, director at Discover Ferries, said: “These figures highlight a vibrant sector of the British and European economies that has operated under the radar for too long.
“Our member companies are the arteries that run across water, maintaining the flow of essential goods and services, boosting employment and wealth, while offering passengers a real alternative to flying.
“There is no doubt that ferries will continue to punch well above their weight as travel restrictions ease and we return to normality.”
She said domestic operators carried more passengers than companies connecting international destinations this year but claimed “better news lies ahead”.
Discover Ferries said households have built up £50 billion in lockdown savings, according to analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research and Scottish Friends – and travel and overseas accommodation were cited as the number-one area where these savings are likely to be spent.
Furthermore, 69% of respondents to an L.E.K. Consulting survey of 1,490 people said they intended to return to, or increase, their frequency of travel next year, compared with 2019 levels.
A fifth (21%) said they intended to travel more with nearly half of those citing “to make up for lost time” as their reason.
L.E.K. Consulting’s research also examined nearly three million social media posts made before and after the outbreak of Covid, relating to travel with the five international ferry operators in the UK plus easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways.
Researchers found an increase in posts “expressing joy” in ferry travel and a significant reduction in posts “expressing fear” – while the opposite was the case for the airlines.
Penlington added: “It is heartening to see in L.E.K. Consulting’s Brandwatch analysis the increase in consumers who value the relaxing experience that ferry travel offers.
“The opportunity to travel in your own vehicle…as well as the use of large, open public spaces and access to fresh air throughout the journey not only gives travellers the confidence to get away, but also ensures they really enjoy their time on board.”
Picture by Nick Pantidos/Shutterstock