Eurotunnel bags 140,000 passengers at Easter

PETER RODGERS

Business Editor

Eurotunnel carried approaching 140,000 passengers on the car shuttle over the long Easter weekend, close to its own forecasts, as the price war with the ferries continued.

The company claimed its systems ran "pretty effortlessly" with four trains an hour most of the time during the four day weekend, and that that 7,700 vehicles were carried on Thursday, just below the record of 8,400 the previous Saturday.

Eurotunnel said its cut price duty free sales were proving a big attraction, taking passengers away from the ferries, and producing a 20 per cent increase in traffic in recent months as a direct result.

Last week Eurotunnel reported that the number of passengers carried rose 31 per cent in March.

Stena recently offered a third off some brands in its duty-free shops. However, the ferries dispute Eurotunnel claims that a drop in ferry day trip traffic over the winter is due to Eurotunnel's cheap fags and booze.

A price war on duty-free hits at the ferry operators' most sensitive spot since much of their profit comes from these sales.

The marketing effort for Le Shuttle is also being stepped up with the award of part of the company's advertising business for the Le Shuttle train services to the London advertising agency BST-BDDP, in an effort to boost bookings with new advertising.

The new agency is expected to relaunch Le Shuttle after technical setbacks and delays last year hit ticket sales.

The company's promotion drive was regarded as lacklustre until it started the duty-free price war.

There have been much stronger criticisms, however, of the marketing campaign by the operators of the Eurostar passenger train service, which does not belong to Eurotunnel but which produces a significant part of its revenue. The stepped-up advertising campaign was started by by Le Shuttle's new chief commercial officer, Bill Dix.

Polls had shown poor public awareness of both Eurostar passenger trains and Le Shuttle's passenger and car services - though there was intensive TV advertising last year.

Around half of Eurotunnel's pounds 10m marketing budget for 1996 will be handled by BST, while another agency, Wunderman Cato Johnson (WCJ), will continue to run the coach and freight accounts, which includes British press, direct marketing and radio campaigns, Eurotunnel said.

Le Shuttle's overall European marketing expenditure for this year is expected to total pounds 20m.

This includes campaigns in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, promoting the Eurostar services to France and Belgium.

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