In the last quarter of 2021, nearly 430,000 vehicles and 1,186,000 passengers crossed between Malta and Gozo.
The amount of vehicles making the trip marked yet another record. Not only was this substantially higher than last year, it was higher than pre-pandemic activity. 2021 Q4 was the the most busy final quarter of the year in history when it comes to crossings of vehicles between Malta and Gozo.
This was the second consecutive quarter when vehicle crossings exceeded pre-pandemic record levels. This testifies to the current strength of domestic demand. While other Europeans are burdended by unprecedented electicity bills and fuel prices, here in Malta many households – protected from these shocks – are in a position to enjoy more staycations.
Looking at 2021 as a whole the amount of vehicles crossing the channel was only marginally below that in 2019, mostly because of a weak first quarter. Turning to passengers activity remains below pre-pandemic level on account of the lesser amount of tourists. However domestic tourism has managed to make up for quite a significant part of this lost activity.
Despite foreign tourism remaining well below 2019 levels, the number of passengers crossing between the two islands is now at 88% of its pre-pandemic record.
A rise in fast ferry usage
The fast ferry service accounted for nearly 120,000 passengers, capturing a tenth of all passenger crossings during the period. This despite the fact that the number of trips declined by a third when compared to the previous quarter.
On average, every trip of the fast ferry had 43 passengers during the last quarter of 2021, higher than the 39 in the first quarter it operated but below the 48 average custom experienced in the summer months. This means that on average each trip was one seventh full.
While some may think this is relatively low capacity utilisation, in fact it is the same as that on the Gozo Channel ferry trips. Each Gozo Channel trip had an average of 126 passengers on it, and when one considers that each boat can carry 900 passengers, this equates to the same degree of capacity utilisation as that on the fast ferry service.
Since its inception nearly 365,000 passengers used the fast ferry service. If these persons had instead used the Gozo Channel service and commuted to Valletta using public transport, they would have spent the equivalent of an additional 350 working years on public transport.
Using the pre-pandemic average wage, this is the equivalent of €6.8 million in lost earnings, or nearly a million euro more per month. This is a measure of the potential gain in welfare for these passengers. In terms of economic output the added work effort could have generated an additional €16.5 million , or nearly two and a half million euro more per month.