How has the ferry industry fared in the past year? Has Stena Line’s performance run in line with this?
2011 was a challenging year for the whole ferry industry and the number of cars carried between the UK and Continental Europe remained static compared to 2010. Stena Line transported an additional 5,000 cars to the Netherlands, which was 4.4% year-on-year growth so we bucked the trend and were satisfied with our performance.
Has the industry, and Stena Line specifically, had to adapt to compete with aviation and the rising cruise sector? How?
The ferry industry has had to ensure that it continued offering convenience and competitive pricing. On its North Sea routes, Stena Line offers both daytime and overnight crossing as well as a ‘dutchflyer’ rail and sail package, which includes customers’ rail travel both in East Anglia and in Holland within the ticket. With the construction of our two Superferries, which we launched in 2010, we had a significant focus on the premium offering, which means that our onboard experience is something with which air travel to Europe can’t compete. We have Swedish-made Dux beds, flat-screen televisions and Hansgrohe shower fittings in all our cabins, as well as a choice of restaurants, a wine bar, a sundeck and free WiFi in the public areas.
Our product is similar to the hotel-like experience on board a cruise, so we’ve seen increased interest in cruising as a boost.
What challenges have you faced going into 2012 and how has the year started for the company?
This year we are feeling the effects of rising fuel costs combined with the ongoing economic downturn and low consumer confidence in the UK. This combination means that we’re having to become increasingly creative in order to continue offering competitive pricing and keep Britons travelling. 2012 so far has been a mixed year which lots of challenges but some strong forward bookings for certain months.
How will you be promoting Stena Line during National Ferry Fortnight?
We have created an excellent special offer which will make our proposition even more attractive and which we’ll be able to announce and actively promote nearer the time. We’ll be pushing this to consumers and the trade through proactive PR and social media and we’re also engaging in the all the Passenger Shipping Association’s activities, which range from advertising and PR to social and digital media.
How successful have the Superferries been and do you have plans for new vessels, routes or capacity in 2012 or in the next few years?
The Superferries have been extremely successful. They took more than five years’ construction and £375m investment so it’s important to us that they are proving so popular. We receive constant passenger feedback about the quality of the experience they offer and the numbers also speak for themselves. In the year they were launched we carried half a million passengers across the North Sea for the first time in several years and last year we grew passenger car traffic by almost 5%.
At the moment we’re not looking to add any new ferries to the North Sea operations. The new Superferries carry between 30 and 40% more cars, passengers, freight units, cabins and beds than their predecessors so we need to concentrate on continuing to grow traffic on this route.