I was a participant last week in the B.C. Ferries consultation at the Coast Bastion hotel. The discussion guide provided was informative and somewhat revealing at the same time.
The focus of the guide was mainly on service cuts and cost-savings, both admirable objectives, but the process of raising prices and cutting service to reduce costs is a never-ending downward spiral that most businesses never recover from.
The guide made no reference to increasing traffic through promotion, incentives or any other means.
The ferry commissioners' report reviewed the Washington State Ferries 2009 plan where incentives, advance no-fee bookings and promotions were to be the order of the day to encourage increased usage. This observation was perhaps lost on the B.C. Ferries administration.
Each ferry sailing is basically a "fixed" cost with fuel, wages and capital costs constants. The only variable is the revenue through sales of services - in other words, vehicle and passenger traffic.
I can, at my home computer, seek, book and print a ticket and or a boarding pass for most any kind of travel almost anywhere in the world, except to cross the Strait of Georgia with B.C. Ferries.
The consultation process did not go there and it seemed to be glossed over to some extent.
It is my proposal that B.C. Ferries institute an online no-fee booking system for travel on selected routes. This, in addition to some rationalization of sailings on low-volume routes, could have a major impact on the bottom line.
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