ECONOMY

Travelers come out winners as ferry firms use discounts to drum up business

Ferry companies are resorting to steep discounts in a bid to support revenues as passenger traffic numbers have dropped off by some 15 percent from last year’s levels due to the economic crisis. Ticket prices start off at 10 euros each for trips such as Piraeus to Paros, while price cuts can be as high as 25 percent for other destinations with a ticket including a four-person cabin. According to travel agencies, ticket prices are slightly higher than last year’s levels due to the recent hikes in value-added tax. Sources said the additional cost from the first VAT hike was absorbed by ferry operators but the second, effective as of July, has been passed onto passengers by some companies in the sector. Despite the crisis and the high cost of fuel, company sources said ferry operators only had one choice: to keep prices at last year’s levels and aim for higher passenger numbers during the July-August period to support income. Indicative of prices currently available are round-trip fares for a four-member family (plus car) traveling from Piraeus to Mytilene at 540 euros, versus 513 euros last year, while a return trip from Piraeus to Myconos costs 347 euros (vs 335 euros in 2009). Growing competition on routes to certain destinations, such as Crete and the Dodecanese islands, is benefiting the consumer. Blue Star Ferries offers economy-class tickets starting from 10 euros for all islands in the Cyclades and 19 euros for destinations in the Dodecanese and Crete. Additionally, price discounts of up to 20 percent are available to passengers, cars and motorcycles on certain vessels that travel to the Cyclades and Crete. Rival ANEK is also lowering prices depending on the time of the route, whether it’s a day or night trip. A price cut of up to 50 percent is valid for cabins during the day while economy seats have been reduced by 30 percent. Meanwhile, Minoan Lines has also lowered prices by 30 percent for cabins and cars and 50 percent for motorcycles. Minoan is also offering more attractive fees in an attempt to drum up business with discounts on cabins and the transportation of cars between 30 and 50 percent.