CalMac launches return ticket extension trial

Caledonian MacBrayne is to extend the validity of a saver return from five days to nine on its Oban-Craignure route until October - but the results will be watched with interest on Bute and other islands where the five day saver has long caused controversy.
Caledonian MacBrayne is to extend the validity of a saver return from five days to nine on its Oban-Craignure route until October - but the results will be watched with interest on Bute and other islands where the five day saver has long caused controversy.

FERRY operator Caledonian MacBrayne has announced the launch of a trial to extend the validity of a saver return ticket - in an experiment which is sure to be watched closely on Bute.

The trial will last for the rest of the current summer timetable on the company’s service between Oban and Craignure on Mull.

And if it proves to be a success by encouraging more people to stay on Mull for longer, CalMac intend rolling the scheme out to other suitable islands.

The five-day return has long been a bone of contention on Bute, with many island businesses claiming that it puts potential visitors off the idea of staying on the island for a full week.

Brian Fulton, CalMac’s head of operations, said: “Extending the duration of our current five day savers was one of a number of ideas which came out of discussions with community representatives in Mull about how CalMac could help them further.

“This is not, however, about getting people to go to Mull at the expense of other island destinations.

“Rather, it is about encouraging those who are already planning to go to stay longer, for although it is a popular destination, and our ferry service is one of the busiest in the network, the majority of people who visit there tend to be day trippers or for short breaks.”

But he added: “Getting people onto our ferries is only part of the picture and we are encouraging tourism bodies and businesses on the island to use this initiative to look at what Mull currently offers visitors and see what they can do to enhance the visitor experience there.

“We will be setting criteria for measuring success with the Mull community and we know there are other islands who will be interested to see the outcome and whether it may be of value to their visitors.”

The Mull trial is only available on off-peak sailings on the Craignure route.

The experiment is taking place with the agreement of the Scottish Government, which is responsible for setting fares on CalMac services.