L'express Des Isles

L’express Des Isles

Roseau, Dominica [April 5th, 2015] – L’Express des Iles, the inter-island ferry service operating between Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Marie Galante for over twenty-seven years, announced changes to its current rate and schedule effective April 15th, 2016.

Mr. Roland Bellemare, CEO of L’Express des Iles, opened the Conference speaking of the relationship between L’Express des Iles and Dominica as a “long love story, with a great deal of collaboration over the years.”  He continued, thanking the Ministry of Tourism and the CEO of DASPA, Mr. Benoit Bardouille for the efforts made to improve the facilitation and comfort of passengers at the Ferry Terminal, most recent being the addition of a covered area on the first floor opening up more space for the large crowds that flow through the Terminal daily.

He continued, thanking H.H.V. Whitchurch & Co. Ltd., General Agents for L’Express des Iles, for their efforts during the last twenty-seven years.

The decision by L’Express des Iles (EDI) was taken with an understanding in the changes to the current passenger loads for 2015 of 74,411 passengers, a collective 5.9% decrease when compared to their peak year of 2012, where EDI carried 79,004 passengers.  [In brief: 2013 vs. 2012: -3.3%; 2014 vs. 2013: -0.8%; 2015 vs. 2014: -1.9%].  EDI saw this continual decrease in passenger loads over the last four years as an opportunity to address the decrease by evaluating the market and investigating options to work with the recognized constraints.  These were identified as the fluctuation in the exchange rate of the Euro against the Eastern Caribbean Dollar.  When the Euro is strong you note an increase in travel from the French West Indies (FWI) to Dominica.  Once the ECD increases, Dominican’s in turn travel to the FWI.  Whilst it balances out, other factors continue to affect the business overall.   A notable decrease in population revenue and luxury spend, particularly in the FWI, where the economic constraints of France are showing a direct fall out effect on the financial capacity of the individuals in these Islands due to reduced social assistance, and lastly, ‘uberisation’ of the economy.  The latter refers to the line of contact from the customer to the producer, skipping the intermediary body.  Bellemare expounded, noting that the sharing of costs removes the intermediary and affects passenger loads and the service being offered, “…for example, when our vessel is full, between Guadeloupe and Dominica, customers buy a ticket with L’Express Des Isles to travel from Guadeloupe to Marie-Galante, and then, they organize with a fisherman for transfer between Marie-Galante and Dominica, and back.”

Bellemare observed that whilst infrastructure, activities and restaurants as well as boutique style accommodations have improved and increased over the years, major developments in Dominica to date, cited for investment opportunity, have not been completed reducing the addition of new elements to the high number export product, for example, high capacity hotel accommodation.  The passage of Tropical Storm Erika compacted this.  With increased competition across the region within the tourism sector EDI realized that they could play a role in pushing growth for the tourism sector in Dominica.  Bellemare noted that since 2008, EDI has not increased its fares.  The increase in calls commencing April 15th, coupled with the lowest rates possible, are structured to capture the entire family, not just one member of the family, and allow for more flexibility in purchase options.

To support the growth of the Tourism Sector and hopefully boost the passenger loads between the Islands, EDI has also looked at the air/sea partnerships to cross the serve through partnership with Air Caraibes.  This has been supported by the expected completion of the TCSP in July 2016 – a project of the Government seeking to facilitate one dedicated access route between the airport and the ferry terminal to allow for easy connections between the two for travelers to the region.

Rate structures include Toupiti, “very, very small” aimed at giving a cheaper round trip option.  Whilst limited to Monday and Thursday departures, is both modifiable and refundable at EC$250 and it is a one price to each Island on the itinerary, removing the segmentation rates per Island.  Didier Coffre, Marketing Director of EDI, explained that with the two vessels of EDI, it made inter-island connectivity easier.  He noted that during the peak seasons, once the need is there, more calls are put in place.  The Zen round trip rate of EC$310, is modifiable/non-refundable and the Flex round trip at EC$380 is modifiable and refundable.  The two latter have no day restrictions.  Newly added is the “Baby” rate of EC$160, for children under 2 years old.  Non refundable but modifiable at a cost this option now makes it easier for the whole family to travel. All rates are VAT inclusive and include one bag.  Added value in the form of the Express+ Card is also targeted at increasing the attraction for travel to Dominica.  This replaces the Abonne Card previously offered.  The Express+ Card offers passengers one additional bag, one (1) complimentary ticket for every five (5) tickets purchased, ability to modify your ticket without fees and as often as you like and priority on the standby list.

Speaking on the new rate and schedule structure, Managing Director of General Agents, H.H.V. Whitchurch & Co. Ltd., Gerry Aird, recognized the efforts of EDI to be a Company willing to ensure that all can access the available sea options, noting that now more members of the family can travel with the more attractive rate structure.  It is hoped that this coupled with the efforts by the Ministry of Tourism to enhance Dominica’s tourism product and encourage persons to visit will increase passenger loads which translates into more stay-over visitors to the Island.  In closing, Mr. Aird expressed, “…our thanks to L’Express des Iles for being the lifeline they provided post Tropical Storm Erika transporting persons into and out of Dominica.”

Also present at the Conference were Directors Jason & Damian Whitchurch-Aird, Manager Shipping & Tours Peter George, Operations Supervisor Hans Victor and Communications Manager, Kira Thompson-Aird.

For more information please contact Whitchurch Shipping & Tours at 448-2181 or 255-1125 / customerservice@whitchurch.com