Fast ferry services between Malta and Gozo, operated privately by Gozo Fast Ferries Ltd and Virtu Gozo, carried 67,259 passengers in the first three months of 2022, with March registering the highest number of trips at 580 – or 38.2 per cent of total trips for the quarter.
The data emerged from statistics published by the National Statistics Office.
Launched in June, the liberalised service, which allows different operators to use the public infrastructure, provides a whole new method of transport for those seeking to travel between the islands frequently without using a personal vehicle, or for tourists to discover the sister island of Gozo.
Trips to Gozo in general increased in the first three months of the year, edging closer to pre-pandemic levels. Indeed, in Q1 2022, 9,402 trips were taken between the Cirkewwa-Mgarr ferry service and the Valletta-Mgarr fast ferry services, carrying a total of 1,029,237 passengers.
In the first quarter of 2020, just before the pandemic caused disruption, 7,324 trips were taken by the ferry service (the fast ferry had not yet been launched), carrying a total of 1,038,142 passengers.
The boosted figures for trips to Gozo will be welcomed by businesses on the sister island that depend on Maltese to prop up economic activity while tourism numbers are more subdued.
The vast majority of people in the first three months of 2022 used the traditional ferry service, with a total of 961,978 passengers travelling between Mgarr and Cirewwa, an increase of 35.3 per cent when compared to the first quarter of 2021 – a time marked by severe COVID disruptions.
During January-March 2022, both passenger and vehicle traffic originating from Ċirkewwa was busiest on Fridays and Saturdays. On the other hand, from the Mġarr terminal, passenger traffic was highest on Sundays and Saturdays, while the highest number of vehicles were recorded on Sundays and Mondays.
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Seat Load Factor also stood strong during the period, with an increase of 6.8% when compared to 2019