Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2021

8 1 P&O Ferries provides daily short crossings between Dover, England and Calais, France Fresh air and a better view P&O Ferries’ Peter Hebblethwaite tells Jon Ingleton why he expects the ferry market to experience a boost once travel restrictions are lifted L ike all ferry operators, P&O Ferries has been severely bruised by the loss of important tourism revenue during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has continued to maintain an essential trade service over the past year. “I think we’ve done pretty well over the past 12 months – we’re going to survive through a crisis that is forcing many companies out of business,” says Peter Hebblethwaite, managing director of ro-pax ferry services at P&O Ferries. “In addition to having a responsibility to our shareholders, we also have a responsibility to the country to keep goods moving across borders. And we take that responsibility incredibly seriously.” To ensure its survival, the company has had to make several difficult decisions, the most challenging of which was cutting jobs. “We’ve endured some really tricky moments and had to make some tough and sad decisions, but only the fittest survive and we had to get fitter,” he explains. “My priority is still to grow our business through our people and our customers, and we must be competitive. We’re now a much more efficient business and that will benefit us in the future. It’s been very rewarding to have fulfilled our responsibility as a carrier of essential goods for the country. We’re also proud to have looked after our customers on multiple levels.” P&O Ferries also postponed plans to relaunch an entirely new customer proposition on the North Sea routes. “Those plans were temporarily put to one side, but we’ve refined them over the past year and we’re now aiming to apply them for all of our routes,” says Hebblethwaite. “In 2021, we will focus on rebuilding so we can get back on track – we’re ready to really thrive in a very different world. There are exciting times ahead – we have a new exciting people and customer agenda, and two new ships joining the fleet that will transform our carbon footprint. And, as we hit important vaccination milestones, we will start to see a reduction in travel restrictions to kick-start our tourism business, perhaps towards the back end of the summer.” Once travel restrictions ease, Hebblethwaite believes that many people will have a “genuine need” to get away from home and travel. However, the idea of spending hours tightly packed in an aeroplane with other passengers will likely be far less palatable than a relaxing ferry crossing with a compelling onboard experience and a fresh sea breeze. “Ferry travel has a strong play in a post-Covid world as we are all reflecting on how we live our lives and how we INTERV IEW