Business travel tough as Eurostar defies bad weather

Ebbsfleet International train station
Ebbsfleet International train station

Ebbsfleet International train station - used by Eurostar trains

by business edtior Trevor Sturgess

Business travel continues to be tough for Eurostar in a flat first quarter.

While the high-speed international train operator through Kent saw sales revenue rise 1% to £213m from £211m (Q1 - 2012), passenger numbers fell slightly from 2.24m to 2.23m.

Eurostar chief executive Nicholas Petrovic said the figures were encouraging because they had to be set against the bad weather in the UK and Northern France, and continuing tough economic conditions.

“This is an encouraging start to the year in spite of the challenges posed by both the economy and the weather," he said.

"Our sales revenues have grown during a quarter which saw heavy snowfalls and some of the coldest temperatures on record in the South of England and Northern France.

This quarter’s performance is testament to our enduring popularity with regular and first time travellers alike.”

While leisure travel held up, buoyed by a strong consumer promotional campaign, economic uncertainty continues to hit the corporate market as businesses seek to contain or cut costs.

In January, Eurostar ran its most successful consumer promotion with 150,000 seats available from £59 return for travel between London, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris, Brussels and Lille.

Ticket sales exceeded those made during the ash cloud disruption in 2010, previously Eurostar’s strongest ever booking period.

Eurostar attracted more passengers from non-EU countries in the first three months of the year, with sales revenues up 10% while passenger numbers increased by 8% compared to the same period in 2012.

Eurostar has also made changes to its website which is generating an increasing volume of business, especially from passengers outside the EU.

Online bookings from the United States rose by 20% in the first quarter of 2013.

Meanwhile, Eurostar is investing £700m in refurbishing its existing fleet and buying 10 new trains.

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