PORTLAND, Maine — Traffic aboard the Nova Star luxury ferry dropped by about one-fifth in August 2015 from the same month last year, leaving the service less than halfway to its ridership goal for the season that’s more than halfway done.
The service reported its ridership figures for August on Wednesday, showing a decline in the categories of Canadian passengers and passengers from the United States and other countries, reported together.
Canadian passenger counts for the full season had the steepest percentage declines, dipping 40 percent — to 6,650 from 10,999 — from last season. U.S. and international ridership was up 6 percent, to 31,150 from 29,348.
The dip in Canadian traffic and a weak August for U.S. and international passengers contributed to an overall 6 percent drop in ridership from last season’s June to August, leaving the service 42,200 passengers away from its goal of carrying 80,000 riders this season.
“Nova Star Cruises is pleased marketing efforts are attracting U.S. passengers to Nova Scotia, but the overall decline in Canadian travelers, largely attributed to the drop in the Canadian dollar, is disappointing,” the ferry operator’s latest monthly report stated.
The report filed Tuesday comes just two days before Nova Star Cruises CEO Mark Amundsen’s scheduled appearance Thursday before the Nova Scotia Legislature’s Economic Development Committee.
Nova Star Cruises said in its statement it has continued to market the service in television programs in southern New England and at trade shows, including the show hosted by Friendship Tours, where it said it presented the service to 150 different tour group companies.
“This is just the first of many travel and trade shows that we are registering for and will attend in the fall and winter as part of our preparation for the 2016 sailing season,” the passenger report stated.
But whether the service will continue to operate the ferry in 2016 is not yet settled. Provincial tourism officials delayed that decision in the middle of August, expressing frustration that they had not yet received updated financials from Nova Star Cruises.
Three other companies have submitted competing proposals to operate a ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, though the province has not started any formal solicitation process.
That updated financial information was the basis for another $1.5 million (Canadian) the province disbursed for operating costs, from a pot of $13 million in possible subsidies approved for this sailing season. The operators had asked for $2.5 million more.
In its first two seasons and through the winter of 2014, the Nova Star has spent about $38.1 million in subsidies from the province.