Northlink Ferries Set For Sell-out Summer As TV Series Boost Visitor Numbers To Record Highs
3rd June 2019
Northern Isles ferry operator Serco NorthLink Ferries is predicting its busiest ever holiday season. The company has just completed training for its 31 seasonal Passenger Service Assistants who have joined the team ahead of the summer surge.
Bookings in 2019 have already been extremely strong, fuelled especially by interest in the Shetland TV crime series, the trend in mindfulness, and staycation demand due to Brexit uncertainty. Customer feedback also indicates that the islands' combination of wildlife, landscapes and heritage remain important in attracting visitors from throughout the UK and abroad.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's managing director for NorthLink Ferries, said: "Summer time in Orkney and Shetland is a unique experience that really does have to be seen to be believed. Our vessels are going through their annual upgrade offering something new for even returning passengers. Our staff, and everyone involved in hospitality in the islands, are ready to go for another outstanding summer."
The tourism season gets fully underway even before the Scottish school holidays, with many tourists drawn to the ‘simmer dim’ on 21 June, when there will be nearly 19 hours of daylight. The wide range of outdoor, music and culture festivals across Orkney and Shetland also got underway in May, marking the start of a very busy five months for the ferries.
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland regional leadership director, said: "Both Orkney and Shetland are a huge draw for visitors, with their stunning landscapes, rich history and heritage, inspiring culture and warmth of the people. These combine to make the islands a real must-visit, must-return destination for the discerning traveller looking for an adventure in Scotland.
“Testament to their popularity is the news just this week that Shetland has been included in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 ‘Best in Europe’ list - the only UK destination on the list - which is a fantastic accolade.
“Scotland’s appearances in TV in shows like ‘Shetland’ have the potential to reach huge global audiences and play an influential role in where visitors choose to travel. We know from research that one in five visitors are inspired to visit after seeing the country on-screen. Almost a third of visitors (29%) of visitors to Orkney were inspired to visit by a TV programme, so the opportunities for the tourism industry are immense."
Last year, NorthLink ferried around 137,000 passengers to the Northern Isles during June, July and August, from a total of 323,000.
For more information on NorthLink Ferries visit www.northlinkferries.co.uk/
Serco NorthLink Ferries is continuing to maintain vital transport links over the autumn and winter period - following the opening of its 2021 booking system at the start of October. The service remains aligned to the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework, and while passenger and car volumes are down significantly year-on-year they have shown further signs of strengthening over the last few months.
Four-legged friends can now travel with their owners between the Scottish mainland and Orkney and Shetland - thanks to new pet-friendly cabins on NorthLink Ferries passenger vessels MV Hamnavoe, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey. Each ship has two pet-friendly cabins available which have en-suite facilities, side-by-side lower twin bunks and tea and coffee making facilities.
Serco NorthLink Ferries has been operating a revised service during Phase 1 and 2 of lockdown, which has provided travel for key workers as well as essential islander and freight connectivity between the Northern Isles and mainland Scotland. During the period 22 March to 30 June, passenger numbers across all routes were 6,010 in comparison to 112,416 over the same period in 2019, representing a reduction of 95 per cent.
Serco NorthLink Ferries continues to request that travellers stay at home and help to save lives as the company was forced to refuse travel to 23 passengers since 22 March. As part of the national effort to deal with the current public health crisis, NorthLink Ferries has been monitoring passengers' reasons for travelling, which are captured during the booking process, and denying travel to or from the Northern Isles to those who disclose non-essential reasons.
A new temporary timetable has been introduced by Serco NorthLink Ferries, designed to continue to provide a lifeline service between mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles whilst reflecting travel demand during the COVID-19 outbreak. In line with advice from the Scottish Government and health officials, restrictions have been implemented in recent weeks to allow only necessary travel, resulting in a significant reduction in passenger numbers.
Stuart Garrett, Serco's Managing Director of NorthLink Ferries, said: "The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is always our top priority and since the outset of COVID-19 we have taken all the necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety. We have followed relevant guidelines and advice from the Government and health officials and continue to do so.
The MV Hamnavoe is due to be in dry dock from 13th to 26th January 2020 (inclusive), and there will be additional north and southbound calls into Kirkwall by the MV Hrossey and MV Hjaltland. During this time the MV Helliar will provide a replacement service on the Pentland Firth route.
Serco, the international service company, has been selected as preferred bidder to continue managing and operating the lifeline Northern Isles Ferry Services for passengers and freight between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, providing essential access and supplies for the islanders. The outcome of the tender was announced by the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands to The Scottish Parliament this morning.
Company is first Scottish transport operator to introduce pioneering support service. Serco NorthLink Ferries has partnered with one of Scotland's digital start-ups to improve journeys for customers who require additional support.
Visitors to some of Scotland's main agricultural shows this summer could win free travel to the Northern Isles on board Serco NorthLink Ferries. Anyone stopping by the company's stand at the Royal Highland Show, Caithness Show, Turriff Show or Isles Shows will be able to enter a prize draw for a trip on board its vessels.