Ireland shines brightly, as Brittany Ferries number one growth market for passenger volumes

As the summer season approaches, Brittany Ferries says passenger volumes are rising slowly towards numbers pre-Covid across the company’s routes connecting Ireland, France, Spain and the UK.

Ireland continues to shine most brightly, with demand increasing on all routes serving France and Spain. And while the company has reported a freight slump on routes serving UK to France, the Brexit by-pass continues to boost volumes on direct Ireland-France freight services.

All-route overview:

Passenger figures for 2023 are encouraging across all routes operated by the company including Ireland. So far this year, Brittany Ferries has booked 1,504,274 passengers (those who have already travelled and those holding a forward reservation). That’s a 17.6% increase on the same period in 2022. However, volumes are still down by nearly 15% compared with 2019, a deficit of around 270,000 people.

Looking at forward reservations for the summer season (covering April – October), bookings have reached 1,224,120 passengers, compared with 1,097,724 for the same period in 2022. This is a rise of 126,396 passengers, or 12%. For year-end the company is forecasting an 18% increase in total passenger numbers compared with 2022.

A total of 1.95 million passengers are forecast to have travelled by the end of the year. While this is positive, it is still around 100,000 fewer than expected.

Ireland France in focus:

Brittany Ferries sails from Rosslare Europort and the Port of Cork to three destinations in France, Le Havre, Cherbourg, and Roscoff. Along with these French routes, Brittany Ferries also operates the only seaborne service connecting Ireland with Spain (Rosslare Europort to Bilbao).

Despite a mixed picture for passenger traffic in other markets, demand continues to soar in Ireland. Compared with 2019, the last pre-Covid comparison year, Brittany Ferries has seen a notable increase of 171% on its Ireland-France routes. This is partly due to the opening of new services connecting Rosslare Europort with Le Havre and Cherbourg.

Between April and October 2019 (high season), Brittany Ferries reported 75,700 passengers making the voyage between Ireland and France. This figure rose to 109,200 pax in 2022. By 2023 however, bookings will have risen again, to 126,500 for the April to October period. That’s a 16% increase year-on-year and a 67% increase compared with 2019.

The Roscoff to Cork connection continues to enjoy uninterrupted growth (+ 3% between the 2022 and 2023 high seasons, + 36% between 2019 and 2023). In an economic environment that is both highly competitive and constrained, the Cherbourg-Rosslare and the Le Havre-Rosslare routes, launched in 2021 are doing well, with bookings hitting 19,600 and 4,150 respectively to date. The Rosslare-Cherbourg route in particular is experiencing exponential growth: + 114% between the 2022 and 2023 peak seasons.


Performance on Spanish routes is even more impressive. The company reported a 201% increase in bookings on its Ireland-Spain routes between 2021 and 2022. This year, the company has built on that growth once again, with a 96% increase in reservations compared with 2022.

By the end of this year the company expects to have carried around 55,000 passengers on its Rosslare Bilbao route, more than double the number carried in 2022. One of the reasons for growth is the new passenger-oriented vessel launched in November 2022. Brittany Ferries Salamanca is the first LNG (liquefied natural gas) powered passenger ferry to operate from Ireland, offering significantly increased capacity on the Rosslare-Bilbao route, bringing comfort and luxury as well as lower emissions and a smoother, quieter voyage for travellers.

Commenting on the Irish performance, Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries CEO said, “Overall we are encouraged by our passenger performance this year, particularly in Ireland. While we are not quite where we want to be in all markets, careful management of our business means we are still in a healthy position and Ireland has increased in strategic significance for our business. We will continue to do all we can, working with partners, to encourage Spanish holidaymakers to visit Ireland and to encourage more Irish holiday-makers to make the voyage to Spain.”

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