'They are tone deaf': B.C. cruise ship industry slams federal restart apathy, calls for immediate plan
VICTORIA -- A loud voice of discontent from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) is now being echoed by numerous tourism and cruise ship organizations across the country.
On Monday, the GVHA had hoped the federal government would release new information about the reopening of U.S and Canadian marine and land borders, but the announcement only included information about how fully vaccinated Canadians can now return quarantine-free starting July 5.
"Disappointment, and not just from us as an organization, but also now 13 organizations, associations that have come together to say, 'We need a plan,'" said Ian Robertson, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.
Robertson says with no real clarity from the federal government on a restart plan for the cruise industry, the entire $4.3 billion sector is in peril.
"They are tone deaf to our request," Robertson told CTV News Vancouver Island.
"I don't think the Prime Minister should be tone deaf to a $4 billion industry."
On Tuesday, the GVHA announced a partnership with 13 other tourism organizations.
The group, which includes the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, the Business Council of BC and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, is calling on the Minister of Transport to immediately announce a restart plan for the cruise industry.
The group says if a clear signal is not made to major cruise operators soon, Canadian ports could be passed over during the 2022 season.
“This is about clarity, certainty, and confidence for the cruise industry, tourism operators, and the thousands of British Columbians who depend on this vital industry,” said Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of BC.
The newly formed group is calling on the federal government to at least reopen Canadian waters to cruise ships in the fall of 2021.
Ottawa has previously announced that cruising in Canadian waters would not resume until at least February of 2022.
Concern comes on many fronts for B.C.'s cruise sector as it's also waiting on some contentious U.S. bills.
A U.S. senator has tabled three bills that would allow American cruise ships to permanently bypass Canada and other foreign ports.
Under the current U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, American cruise lines must dock at a foreign port between two U.S. ports.
Legislation passed in May, called the "Alaska Tourism Restoration Act," allowed U.S. cruises to temporarily skip this requirement due to COVID-19, as countries like Canada continue to ban cruises from docking.
Utah senator Mike Lee says he's tabling the three bills to repeal or reform the "outdated" law.
"The PVSA is bad news," said Lee in a press release on June 10.
"This arcane law benefits Canada, Mexico, and other countries who receive increased maritime traffic, at the expense of American workers in our coastal cities, towns, and ports," he said.
In Florida, the U.S. cruise ship industry is showing signs of life after the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
A trial cruise pulled anchor in Miami on Sunday evening.
Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas left from Port Miami with about 600 employee volunteers to test COVID-19 health and safety measures before the company starts welcoming the paying public.
The company says all the volunteers are vaccinated and there were also representatives from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on board.
According to requirements outlined by the CDC, a trial cruise is one of two paths for a cruise ship to resume sailing.
A ship may either opt to perform a trial cruise or agree to set sail with almost all fully vaccinated passengers and crew – 95% for both groups.
Florida may not have to abide by those rules, however.
A legal case from the state challenged a CDC ruling in April, and a judge sided with the state.
This means that companies cannot require customers to prove they have been vaccinated to receive goods and services.
Still, most cruise ship operators, like Royal Caribbean, are strongly recommending passengers in Florida be vaccinated before getting on board.
While upcoming cruises leaving Florida will not require passengers to be vaccinated, scheduled Royal Caribbean trips between Seattle and Alaska with Royal Caribbean will demand customers have gotten the COVID-19 shot.