Sales are exceeding expectations as Hullo foot-passenger vessels prepare to ferry people from Nanaimo to Vancouver beginning next week.
The two 354-passenger ferries begin service Monday, Aug. 14. Alastair Caddick, Hullo CEO, is happy with pre-sales so far, with reservations through August into September. People are leaning toward travelling later in the day, he said.
“The 10 a.m. sailing out of Nanaimo is a popular one, the 4:30 p.m. … coming back from Vancouver to Nanaimo, the 6:30 p.m. and eventually, the 10:30 p.m,” Caddick said. “One of the things that we will be doing in the near future is outlining what are those special events, concerts, sporting events, Lions games, Canucks and so on. Once we start laying out those special events, we think that that late-night special-event sailing will be will be very, very popular for those big nights.”
Even more sailings will be added if there is demand.
A shuttle bus service to downtown Nanaimo is in the works, as Hullo has purchased a vehicle for that service.
“What we need to do now is get it ready, get it branded and get our insurance, so it won’t be ready for the first day of operations, but it’ll be coming very soon,” Caddick said.
However, parking facilities are ready for the start of service.
“Guests, on the very first day, will be able to bring their cars down and park at the lot and walk straight on,” said the CEO. “By Monday morning, the roundabout for dropping off and picking up friends and family, that will be ready, a taxi stand and car share pickups will be there. All of that infrastructure to make coming and going, that connectivity, will be ready for Monday sailings.”
Passengers can’t travel with e-bikes, and can’t bring their bicycles, either, for now, but non-motorized bike reservations are coming soon, Caddick said.
“What we need to do is to have a solution so people can reserve because it won’t be unlimited bikes, there’ll be some limits,” he said. “People want certainty and so we’ll be adding an ability for passengers to reserve those spots. That’s not quite ready yet, but they’ll be coming soon.”
Similarly, carry-on luggage is allowed, but Hullo is working on solutions for larger luggage.
Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, Vancouver Island University tourism professor, said the additional service to the mainland is a “game-changer,” and Nanaimo will benefit from having a fast foot ferry to complement B.C. Ferries’ service.
“We still need the ability to bring vehicles and goods and people across on B.C. Ferries, so I do think we need both,” she said. “I think Hullo is a different market, a different opportunity. What we’re talking about here is a really incredible increase in capacity into our community and bringing new visitors and revenue or economic opportunity into our community.”
The ferries will sail from downtown Nanaimo’s cruise ship terminal to downtown Vancouver’s seaplane terminal.
One-way fares are $40-60 for adults and $20-40 for children and seniors. For more information, visit http://hullo.com.