Arran visitor numbers boosted by cheaper ferry fares, report finds

February 17 2017, 11.55amUpdated: February 17 2017, 2.27pm
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Cheaper ferry fares have significantly boosted the number of visitors to Arran, according to a new report.

The evaluation found the introduction of the road equivalent tariff (RET) in 2014 has had a bigger impact on the island than any other that Clyde and Hebridean Ferry Services (CHFS) sail to.

The scheme, which bases fares on the cost of travelling the equivalent distance by road, cut tickets on the Ardrossan to Brodick and Claonaig to Lochranza routes by as much as 55% for passengers and 65% for cars.

The reduced fares have led to a “step change” in day-trip, short and long-stay tourism, with car journeys up 52% between 2013/14 and 2015/16 to 222,640.

Passenger numbers across the two routes have also risen by 16%, from 750,272 to 873,640, over the period.

In two summer onboard surveys, 11% of visitors questioned on Ardrossan to Brodick sailings and 17% on the Claonaig to Lochranza route said their journey had been wholly prompted by RET fares while the majority of Arran businesses cited increases in footfall and turnover.

The success of the venture has led to deck capacity issues at peak times, with about a quarter of visitors reporting difficulties securing a booking on their preferred sailing, but the report said the introduction of a new ferry in 2018 should largely address the problem.

Some retail businesses have also reported a decline in customers and turnover as a result of travelling off-island for shopping.

Transport and islands minister Humza Yousaf said the findings of the report were ” very encouraging”.

He said: “Local businesses are highly positive about the impact of RET, with the majority of firms citing increases in both footfall and turnover.

“The report shows that island residents have an overwhelmingly positive view of the introduction of RET, saying it has enhanced the social, cultural and economic opportunities on the island.

“This report will also help us plan for the future and manage the impact of the increasing demand for travel to and from Arran.

“The roll-out of RET to the Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services network was a key commitment from the Scottish Government, so I’m very pleased to see it making ferry travel more affordable, as well as helping support our island economies.”

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