Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bar Harbor, Maine - "Cat’s early-afternoon arrival pleases tourist groups".

Bay Ferries’ decision to have the Cat arrive in the early afternoon in Yarmouth from Portland and Bar Harbor could have a beneficial impact on tourism, says an industry spokesman.

Bay announced several months ago it would change the 2007 sailing schedule for its high-speed ferry between Yarmouth and Maine. Two of the changes, a slightly shorter season and a decision not to increase sailings to Bar Harbor to two a day during a period in summer, were done to ease a tight dry-docking schedule in May and to save money.

"At the start of the season there are a couple of factors in play," Bay president and CEO Mark MacDonald said in an interview. "We always have a timing issue in May because that is when we dry-dock the ship. It is booked for a certain amount of winter work until the second of May and then comes to the shipyard in Halifax and this year we have some fairly major technical work going on. It is routine but still time consuming so it will be in dry dock for two to three weeks."

Bay previously started its Yarmouth season in late May but this year won’t start until June 1. Passenger levels last May were low.

Doug Fawthrop, spokesman for the Destination Southwest Nova Scotia Association, a partnership of tourist groups, said Monday the change in the arrival schedule will be positive, since the Cat will arrive in Yarmouth in the early afternoon instead of the evening.

"I guess we come from a school where anything we can do that is in the best interest of the customer is always the right thing to do and that’s (arrival change) in the best interests of the customer," Mr. Fawthrop said.

He said some accommodations’ operators may have benefited "marginally" from the evening arrivals, but they are only part of the industry.

"Restaurants suffer under those circumstances, gift shops and all other levels and components of the tourism sector ... so the early day will benefit more people. At the end of the day this is about total (spending) and I think this will help that."

Mr. Fawthrop said it is important to note that Bay offers one- and two-night overnight packages from Portland and Bar Harbor. Few people would be inclined to purchase the one-night package if they arrived in the evening and had to be back on the boat early the next morning.

"From Bar Harbor there is also a significant day-trip component so I think it gives Bay Ferries an opportunity to provide more benefit to the Nova Scotia tourism industry."

From June 1 to July 10 and Sept. 3 to Oct. 9, the Cat will leave Bar Harbor four mornings a week, Monday through Thursday, and return three afternoons a week, Monday through Wednesday.

On Thursday afternoons, it will leave Yarmouth and go to Portland. It will operate between Portland and Yarmouth from Friday through Sunday.

From July 11 to Sept. 2, sailings between Portland and Yarmouth will increase by one a day.

The vessel will do the Bar Harbor-Yarmouth run Monday through Wednesday, go to Portland on Wednesday afternoon and operate between Portland and Yarmouth from Thursday to Sunday.

All departures from Yarmouth will be at 4 p.m. and from Maine ports at 8 a.m.

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