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The number of cars taken by ferry has increased from 8.70 to 8.77 million in 2017 – a 1% increase. This is half a million more than the 8.2 million cars carried in 2012 and is the fifth year of successive growth according to the annual results of the ferry industry published today. The news matches industry confidence for the future with more than one billion pounds being invested by ferry companies and ports for future growth.

The 2017 IRN Ferrystat figures were released today by Discover Ferries, the industry body for ferry operators as part of its National Ferry Fortnight annual celebration of travel by sea.

Discover Ferries member operators include Brittany Ferries, Caledonian MacBrayne, DFDS, Irish Ferries, Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group,  MBNA  Thames Clippers, P&O Ferries, Red Funnel, StenaLine and Wightlink. These members serve Belgium, France, Holland, Ireland, the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Northern Ireland, London, Scottish Islands and Spain.

There were 38.4 million ferry journeys in 2017 and domestic travel within the UK was particularly strong. Total passenger ferry journeys within the UK increased from 16.8 to 16.9 million and the number of domestic car carryings increased from 3.9 to 4.0 million year-on-year.

Ferry travel between Great Britain to Ireland and Northern Ireland also increased by 2% to 4.8 million passengers in 2017.

Last year ferries also carried an estimated 88,000 dogs, 69,000 cats and 2,000 ferrets according to the IRN Ferrystat annual consumer survey.

Emma Batchelor, Discover Ferries director said: “The sustained increase in the number of people taking their cars on holiday is great news for the ferry sector. There are now 8.77 million car journeys made by ferry and more than 38 million passengers travelling by car, coach and on foot. We know that ferry travel is the enabler for independent travellers to take their own passions with them  -whether that’s grabbing their bikes, surfboards or golfclubs, or simply being able to travel easily with their pets, or as a large group of family or friends. We’re also delighted that the industry is responding to that sustained growth by investing more than a billion pounds for the future. In the next twelve months alone we have four new ships launching.”

Irish Ferries’ £125 million pound cruise-style WB Yeats launches this autumn carrying 1,885 passengers, 441 onboard cabins and 1,200 cars. There will be two new vessels to the Isle of Wight this summer.  Wightlink’s new Victoria of Wight will carry more than 1,000 passengers, and 178 cars from Portsmouth to Fishbourne and Red Funnel’s new Red Jet service will transport 277 people from Southampton. In Spring 2019, the £175 million Brittany Ferries Honfleur ship will launch from Portsmouth to Caen in France.

“The great news is that this is a long term trend,” said Emma. “From 2019 onwards we’ve also got seven further new ships being built for companies such as Caledonian Maritime Assets, Stena Line and Irish Ferries, while Brittany Ferries will also charter a further new vessel. The quality and design of these new ships, from pet-friendly cabins to stylish restaurants, means we are really setting the bar high for  independent travellers of the future looking to enjoy rather than endure their journey.”

Ferry travellers are valuable tourists because they travel widely and can disperse regional spending throughout a country. For example there were more than 9.45 million passenger journeys between the UK  Western Europe last year and the Ferrystat report reveals that the top ten primary destinations for those travellers were France (50%), Belgium (10%) , Germany (9%), Spain (7%), Netherlands 6%), Poland (6%), Italy (3%), Austria (1%), Denmark  (1%) and Switzerland (1%).

Of the 4.4 million ferry passenger journeys between UK and France the ten destinations for ferry travellers were Nord-pas-de-Calais (16%), Brittany (13%) Normandy (9%), Poitou Charentes (7%),  Pays de la Loire (7%), Languedoc-Roussillon (6%), Rhone Alpes (6%),  Aquitaine (5%), Provence – Alpes – Cotes dAzur (5%), Limousine (4%), Midi Pyrenees (4%).

Around 750,000 travellers also use ferries to travel to Germany every year according to the IRN Ferrystat data. Top ten destinations for ferry travellers within Germany were North Rhine Westphaalia (42%) Saxony (13%), Bavaria (12%), Baden Wurttemberg (9%), Hesse (7%), Rhineland (7%), Brandenburg (4%), Berlin (3%), Mecklenburg (2%) and Saxony-Anhalt (1%)

More than 500,000 Brits travelled to Spain by ferry last year and their principal destinations were Valencia (28%), Andalucía (27%), Catalonia (16%), Murcia (16%), Galicia (3%), Cantabria (3%), Asturias (2%), Castile Extramadura (2%), Basque Country (1%), Aragon (1%).

The top five destinations for the more than 50,000 ferry travellers who visited the Netherlands in 2017 were North Holland (38%), South Holland (14%), Groningen (11%), North Brabant (10%) and Utrecht (10%).

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