Saturday, January 20, 2007

With glad tidings of joy, David Hahn brings his plan to increase traffic to the North coast

With a new vessel on the way and a marketing plan in his pocket, David Hahn came north to speak to the Prince Rupert District Chamber of Commerce this week. Hahn was the guest speaker at the Chambers luncheon on Wednesday, and presented last years dismal numbers and promised better times ahead in the very near future.

Having seen his company presented in a less than good light of late, Hahn took advantage of his speaking appearance to go over some of the prospects for the coming year with a new ferry in service and a marketing plan designed to bring visitors back to the North.

The Daily News featured coverage of his speech and the plans of BC Ferries for this coming tourist season as part of their front page story in Thursday’s paper.

David Hahn says new ferries and marketing plan will pull in the visitors
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Pages one and two

The CEO of B. C. Ferries wants to take the dismal passenger count on the northern routes last summer and leave it in his wake.

Fortunately, David Hahn has two new vessels to help him ferry the northern routes to a much brighter future.

“There is going to be significant marketing around the North. I think we have a great opportunity to work with everyone up and down the coast to make sure that we not only rebuild but that we strengthen and make it a lot bigger than it has ever been before,” said Hahn, speaking in Prince Rupert on Wednesday.

Hahn presented the 2006 summer passenger count during a Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Following the sinking of the Queen of the North, the Queen of Prince Rupert was used to serve both the Inside Passage and Queen Charlotte Islands.

From March to September on the Inside Passage, the vehicle count dropped from 13,764 in 2005 to 5,901 in 2006 and passengers from 52,076 in 2005 to 25,534 in 2006.

From Prince Rupert to Skidegate during the same time period, the vehicle count dropped from 13,207 in 2005 to 9,930 in 2006 and passenger s from 36,200 to 24,102.

However, Hahn came to town with a team of five senior-level managers in marketing and community relations who all seemed prepared to take advantage of the new vessels coming on line in the next three years.

”I can tell you, we will be fully back to normal (this summer), I would argue better than normal when you see the Northern Adventure. It’s going to be a bit of a shock in that it’s going to be that much better than anything in long, long time,” said Hahn.

B. C. Ferries will bring its first new shop on-line in April with the launch of the Northern Adventure, formerly the Sonia. The company spent $50 million buying it and is spending $10 million having her upgraded.

“It’s going to look terrific. If we find some things we need to do at the end there to make it look better, we will do it.”

“We won’t worry about the budget. We will get it up here on time and have it done the right way,” he said.

When the Northern Adventure upgrades are complete, B. C. Ferries will take the vessel on a tour of northern coast communities where B. C. Ferries will hold open houses. It will begin its service by sailing the Inside Passage, formerly served by the Queen of the North,

“We have to restore the traffic, which I think should be fairly easy, but we also have to stir in the economic benefit – it should be more traffic,” said Hahn.

“This is a better product by far, I think we can do a lot of work with the tourism market to promote the North and again it’s good business for us to work with everybody and see some growth.”

Then, in the spring of 2009, B. C. Ferries is expecting the delivery of the Northern Expedition, a replacement vessel for the Queen of Prince Rupert.

The Northern Adventure will be moved over to serve the Queen Charlotte Islands, while the Expedition takes over the Inside Passage.

“The design for the Northern Expedition is almost all done. When you see the interior space, it’s going to have a very different look than anything you have seen up here before,” said Hahn.

Hahn also spoke about the need to analyze the profile of northern customers to maximize growth.

According to B. C. Ferries research, 30 per cent of northern route travelers are from the Pacific Northwest and Alberta and 55 per cent of them book their trip two months ahead.

Twenty per cent are from other parts of North America and 54 per cent plan their trip two months ahead.

Some 40 per cent of northern route travelers are International travelers and 24 per cent of this group plans their trip two months ahead and 10 per cent are local.

Hahn also floated a few exploratory ideas for the future, such as two tiered pricing, with lower ticket prices for British Columbia residents.

“Nobody’s agreeing to anything nobody is announcing anything… but it’s something we need to look at because it is only fair the residents get a bigger benefit than those who come once a year,” said Hahn.

Finally, Hahn suggested exploring Inside Passage trips to Vancouver.

“I know we used to do that a long time ago. I think we should look at that again.

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