Victoria business community confident U.S. cruise ships will return in 2022
VICTORIA -- U.S. President Joe Biden has officially signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law. This will allow cruise ships to travel between Washington state and Alaska, bypassing Canada completely in the process.
"This law will allow large cruise ships to visit Alaska this year," said Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary.
The news has some local tourism operators worried.
"The fact that this legislation has passed is obviously concerning because anything that is temporary can always become permanent," said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.
Previously, U.S. law prohibited cruise ships from sailing between two American ports without stopping at a foreign port.
"This legislation is in play now and will be there until our borders reopen," said Robertson.
The cruise industry is worth $130 million to Victoria’s economy and employs more than 800 people. But at Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, there was cautious optimism in the air.
"I think they’re coming back," said Jackson Avio, owner of the Smoke and Anchor.
In a normal year, the cruise industry is responsible for roughly 30 to 35 per cent of the Smoke and Anchor's yearly income. The owner is confident that those cruises will return in 2022.
"Victoria is such an amazing city and they’re going to want to come back," said Avio. "That’s kind of what we’re hoping."
Just up the dock at Puerto Vallarta Amigos, there’s more confidence that cruise ships will return in 2022. Owners say it's hard to resist Victoria’s beauty and the value of the American dollar.
"We believe in the long term they are going to come back and stay with us," said Ramesh Espinoza, owner of Puerto Vallarta Amigos.
"Fortunately our coin or money is a little bit below the dollar, so that’s an incentive for them to come here," said Espinoza.
On Tuesday, B.C.'s tourism ministry stressed that the U.S. legislation was a temporary measure.
"The bill that was passed is temporary in nature and makes it clear that the moment our ports are open again, American cruise ships will be required to stop in B.C.," said the province in a statement.
Meanwhile, local tourism operators say cruise ships expose travellers to Victoria.
"Victoria is one of the most exciting ports of call out there," said Ian MacPhee, financial controller of Prince of Whales Whale Watching.
Prince of Whales Whale Watching generally doesn’t get a lot of business directly from the cruise ships. However, the company says it sees people coming back to the city if they visited on a cruise before.
"The amount of people that come back after having seen us as a point of call, it’s extraordinary," said MacPhee.
In the meantime, Premier John Horgan is set to meet with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski on June 9 to discuss the bill.