January 2

Lack of key details holds up new ferry service marketing

With tour operators booking for 2014, the company scrambles to provide data to help sell the new Portland-Yarmouth route.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Don Haggett, sales director for Lafayette Hotels, is looking forward to the new ferry service and the customers it brings to Lafayette’s Best Western Merry Manor Inn in South Portland.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“This is an opportunity to sell an idea,” he said. “The price is important, but not needed at this point.”

The Nova Star ferry has 163 cabins and capacity for 1,215 passengers. It can carry 336 cars and 38 commercial vehicles. At 528 feet, the Nova Star is 43 feet longer than the Scotia Prince, the once-familiar ferry that operated between Portland and Yarmouth from 1982 to 2004.

Many of the passengers on the Scotia Prince were customers on bus tours that operated largely out of states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. They were able to drive to Portland in one day, arriving in the evening to board the ferry.

Don Haggett, sales director for Lafayette Hotels, which owns 22 hotels in Maine, said the ferry will be a “huge boon” for the tourism industry in both Nova Scotia and Maine. When the Scotia Prince was operating, he said, 20 to 30 people would disembark from the ferry every day and check into the Merry Manor Inn in South Portland, where he works, in addition to guests arriving on tour buses that had traveled on the ferry.

Haggett, who will attend the Nashville trade show, said Nova Star Cruises recently hired some well-respected staff who have assured him that the pricing information will be ready in time for the trade show.

Meanwhile, the ferry operator is putting together its own tour packages. It has hired Danny Morton, a former general manager of White Point Beach Resort, a year-round resort on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, to create tour packages in Nova Scotia that include ferry passage.

In addition, the company last week hired Julie Walters, general manager of the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores Tourism Association, to work with Morton to develop tour packages.

Most bus tour companies – particularly large ones – put together their tour offerings as much as a year in advance, said Richard Arnold, president of Atlantic Tours Limited, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Arnold, who will be attending the trade show in Nashville, said the 2014 season is “already put to bed” for most operators, and that he will pitch the ferry primarily for the 2015 season.

He expressed concern that Nova Scotia residents’ expectations for the 2014 season may be too high, and that disappointment may cause them to lose faith in the service, which he thinks will be popular in the long run.

“We are hoping that nobody is expecting a miracle overnight,” he said. “It takes a while to market it.”

Nova Star Cruises has another obstacle, he said: bad memories from the Scotia Prince.

The Scotia Prince abruptly canceled its ferry service before the start of the 2005 season, upending the schedule of bus tour operators. Because of the feelings of “disenchantment” with their Scotia Prince experience, he said, many tour groups will want to see the Nova Star operate for a season without significant mechanical glitches or schedule changes.

“It’s important the first season be done correctly,” he said. “People are sitting back and waiting to see how it will play out before they make major commitments.”

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @TomBellPortland

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