A new passenger service running between the Inner Harbour and downtown Vancouver could ferry tourists to Victoria as early as next year, officials said in a surprise announcement Wednesday.
Australia-based Riverside Marine is proposing to bring in two vessels similar to the Victoria-Seattle Clipper which would dock in a leased space at Victoria’s Steamship Terminal in April or May 2016.
“What is truly exciting about that opportunity is that once again will bring back a passenger ferry service to the iconic building,” said Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson. “That’s going to bring more tourists to Victoria, and I would guess it’s going to be those higher-yield, higher-margin guests. They’re going to want to spend more time in Victoria and hopefully, spend more money.”
The service would run approximately two trips per day with 300 passengers per trip, and would cost $80 for a one-way ticket between the harbour and Vancouver’s convention centre, according to Riverside Marine’s CEO Hume Campbell.
The trip would take about three hours and 10 minutes, and would be focused on providing a memorable experience at a higher cost than BC Ferries.
“We’re not in the $19 to $20 fair market, that’s not us,” Campbell said. “But it’ll be some of those people who just want to have a comfortable ride and get there very quickly and easily from downtown to downtown.”
Campbell, who said he worked on tugboats on the west coast of Canada for years as a young man, said he has been doing business in Australia for decade and runs a similar ferry service there.
“It’s profitable, it’s operating, our company’s been going for 89 years,” he said. “We have 21 vessels on Sydney Harbour, and we used to operate up in the Great Barrier Reef of Queensland.”
But the passenger route between B.C.’s capital and its biggest city may not be without it’s challenges.
It was attempted once in the 80s with jetfoil vessels and did not prove to be profitable, eventually folding.
Hume says his model is different because its privately funded and has been proven to work in his homeland.
With tourism numbers on the rebound in Greater Victoria this year, the timing could be right, said the CEO of Tourism Victoria’s CEO.
“I think what’s really important is that it gives the customers more choice,” said Paul Nursey. “These are private sector operators and they’re really big players and they’ve done their own research.”
The authority also announced Ocean Networks Canada is another possible tenant for the Steamship Terminal.
The organization is a University of Victoria initiative that operates ocean observatories, and would provide a “great experiential learning attraction” for kids, Nursey said.
The Harbour Authority Board still needs to approve both lease agreements.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Chandler Grieve