Given the lateness of the start-up of the 2014 season, the ferry operator had missed the boat on motorcoach tours, which often book a year or more in advance. Nova Star Cruises was only able to start taking reservations for the 2014 season in late March.
Danny Morton, director of Cruise Marketing & Business Development for Nova Star Cruises, said he expects the number of bookings to continue to increase for the 2015 season.
“We’re getting many inquiries about next year,” he said. “Companies are excited about our current promotion that allows them to book now at last year’s rates.
“We received a very good response at the recent Atlantic Canada Showcase held in PEI where Nova Star enjoyed a full roster of business appointments with Canadian and international travel trade operators for both group and independent travelers,” he added. The company plans to have representation at other trade shows as well.
John Litchfield works with Tours of Distinction based in northern Connecticut. In 2015 the company has eight bus tours coming across on Nova Star in late June to mid-July and another tour in early September. While they’ll arrive in Yarmouth via the ship, most of their sightseeing business will take place in other parts of the province, as well as some sightseeing in Prince Edward Island.
Litchfield says having a ferry option once again is good for motorcoach business.
“It’s made the difference for us. I’ve dealt with Nova Scotia tours for many years. We date way back to the Bluenose days and the Scotia Prince. This allows us to get into central Nova Scotia very quickly from New England,” Litchfield told the Vanguard. “When the ferry services ended we had to put a night in New Brunswick to get to Halifax, it literally killed the Nova Scotia business for us. In fact it ended. I think we ran one tour in four years.”
He says now they’re getting back into the market in a big way.
“Because we and some of the other larger tour operators in the northeast haven’t offered it to our groups ever since the ferry service ended from Portland, there is pent-up interest in Nova Scotia,” says Litchfield. Their tour packages run seven days with tour guides from Nova Scotia hired on.
Meanwhile, as of this week there was still no word on off-season winter work for Nova Star, which docked in Yarmouth the morning of Oct. 14 at the conclusion of its sailing season.
“We’re getting closer, but nothing to announce yet,” said company spokesperson Dennis Bailey. “Hopefully soon.”
At the conclusion of the inaugural season the provincial government had to provide Nova Star with $5 million – on top of the $21 million already provided this season – to aid the company in paying its season expenses. The government has told the company to exhaust all options to find a winter route for the ship, since having Nova Star sit idle until next spring would continue to incur costs.
In the Nova Scotia Legislation, opposition parties have been hammering the government to show them a plan for a sustainable ferry service.
In its first season Nova Star carried 59,018 passengers to and from this province.