The aforementioned increase in deposit and resulting reduction in speculative double bookings is bound to have made an impact for a start - 4% isnít a big enough number that it couldnít conceivably not be a result of such a policy. Thereís also the fact that BFís numbers are already in decline on some routes with the Caen route down by 7.4% in 2017 vs 2016 for example (by BFís own admission). Portsmouth to Cherbourg was down 9% over summer 2018 according to BFís latest published figures yet other routes were slightly up. I donít see DFDS or P&O complaining to the press about how brexit is killing their business, nor Eurotunnel for that matter!!! While there may be a bit of a brexit effect I personally feel itís more likely people are using different travel options (airlines, Dover Strait, Holiday elsewhere than France) and not double booking anymore due to the financial penalty
With the introduction of the deposit etc maybe the drop in passengers is only reflecting the true bookings and not an inflated figure due to speculative bookings previously experienced. Judgement is probably best left until this time next year.
With Brexit there is also the possibility, as Stenaline have stated, of relocating ships to other more direct routes from Ireland to France and Spain.
Important to note Stena have said itís a possibility but that itís not something they intend to do at present.
P&O are reporting theyíve had a really strong summer and a good 2018 so far with record breaking passenger numbers on the Calais route in August, while Brittany Ferries appear to be down. Of course thatís this year not next, but it seems Brittany Ferries are losing business to the competition which could also help explain why forward bookings are down. Or people may genuinely be being more cautious - itís impossible to say but thereís definitely more than just Brexit at play.