Nova Star docked in Yarmouth harbour. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
Nova Star Cruises has released more August numbers, saying with three sailing days remaining in the month there were 20,206 tickets purchased in August for crossings on the New England-Nova Scotia ferry.
This brings the passenger number from the start of the season to the end of August – as of Aug. 28 bookings – to 42,964 passengers.
The company had said in the months leading up to the service that its goal was to transport 100,000 passengers – a target it won’t meet in its inaugural season. But the company has also said it realizes it will take time to rebuild this service – certainly more than one sailing season.
The company says the August average – as of Aug. 28 – saw 652 passengers per day using Nova Star. (The ship makes two crossings per 24-hour period.)
Although the vessel is built to accommodate 1,215 passengers per crossing, Nova Star Cruises says its goal is to host between 500 and 700 passengers per day, on average, during its peak season.
The company is pleased with the higher August numbers, which (as of Aug. 28) saw an increase of 7,163 passengers from July.
“Nova Star’s August passenger numbers provide confidence that there is a growing market in the US and Canada for the ferry service and that awareness of the ferry service is beginning to be re-established after an almost five-year hiatus of service,” said Mark Amundsen, President and CEO, Nova Star Cruises.
In July Nova Star had seen 13,043 passengers, in June it was 6,791 passengers and during 17 days in May it was 2,924 passengers.
The company has already needed to access all of the $21 million that had been set aside by the province of Nova Scotia for the first seven years of the service to be used for marketing, start-up and operations. According to the agreement that was struck prior to the launch of the service, $12 million was going to be dispersed in the first year with $1.5 million each year afterwards.
Of the money provided by the province, $5 million was for money Nova Star Cruises had accounted for in its business plan when, again prior to the start of the season, the governor of Maine had said the state would assist the Maine company in accessing a $5 million line of credit. That didn’t materialize.
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Michel Samson, Nova Scotia’s minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, said recently he intends to travel to Maine for a face-to-face meeting with Governor Paul LePage to discuss support for the ferry service, saying the responsible thing to do is look at how the province can develop partnerships to reduce the financial burden on Nova Scotia taxpayers.
Nova Star’s season is slated to run until Nov. 2. Given that it will be heading into the shoulder season numbers will drop.
Still, the company says it continues to push traffic for this year in addition to focusing on next season. The company attributes its higher numbers in August to such factors as positive customer feedback on social media, marketing efforts, new rates and packages, onboard events and warmer weather.
“We are continuing to focus on driving more passengers and visitors to Nova Scotia for the remainder of the season and are making important travel and motor coach contacts to secure reservations for next year and beyond,” said Amundsen.
Nova Star Cruises recently announced that it has partnered with Atlantic Tours and North American Traveler to offer cost-effective packages for its guests, including travel on the Nova Star to New England to shop in Freeport, Maine, catch a Broadway production of The Lion King in Boston, or take in the sights of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. It is even offering a travel package for people who may want to take in Cape Fest where Aerosmith will be performing in Sydney, N.S. on Sept. 12.
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