Miss Liberty and Ellis Isle draw larger crowds

January 22, 2009 at 2:19 am Leave a comment

The ferry operator that carts visitors to and from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island insists that security snafus prevented last year’s growth from being even bigger.The number of visitors to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island hit 3.6 million last year, up 5.2% from 2007. According to Statue Cruises, the ferry company that transports visitors to the national monuments, the number would have been even greater had passengers been able to get through security faster.

“There was plenty of customer demand,” said Terry MacRae, chief executive of the Statue Cruises, which is owned by San Francisco-based Hornblower Yachts.

He insists that long lines were a deterrent, noting that local visitors are more likely to leave long lines and may not return later. International visitors, who tend to be on a more restricted schedule, will wait it out.

Statue Cruises has just completed its first year ferrying passengers to the monuments, having won the National Park Service contract in 2007.

The problem of long lines—with waits of as much as 60 minutes during peak hours—is something Statue Cruises is trying to solve along with the NPS and the U.S. Park Police, which control and provide the security, respectively. There are currently six metal detectors at Battery Park, where passengers catch the ferries. Statue Cruises maintains that two more are needed. The rub is that there is not enough space to accommodate them, Mr. MacRae said.

At least one line has been significantly shortened since Statue Cruises took over the route. The company allows passengers to purchase tickets online—something they could not do previously.

“There used to be two long lines,” Mr. MacRae said. A limited number of passengers are also allowed to reserve a specific time period in which to board the boats, and those passengers are expedited through the security lines. As of June last year, however, only 15% of the visitors purchased their tickets online.

Despite the weak economy, the number of visitors to the monuments increased during each month of 2008, compared to the same periods of 2007. The cost of a ticket is $12.

“We are confident that we’ll see another increase in 2009,” Mr. MacRae said.

By Lisa Fickenscher

Crain’s

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Entry filed under: Get Wet, Manhattan, Public Waterfront.

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