Victoria cruise ship season on brink of cancellation, border unlikely to open soon
VICTORIA -- An Inner Harbour bustling with tourists is not a sight you’ll see in Victoria soon.
Canada’s borders are closed to non-essential travel until at least May 21, and the remainder of the cruise ship season is on the cusp of cancellation.
Ian Robertson, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, says only 67 arrivals remain on the schedule and he expects those will soon be cancelled by cruise lines.
“I expect that we’re going to have those cancellations probably in the next couple of weeks, so quite frankly I’m not counting on any cruise ships in 2020,” said Robertson on Tuesday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry weighed in on the industry as well on Tuesday, advising that she is not in favour of cruise ships coming into B.C. in the coming months. She added that if one did, its passengers would not be allowed to disembark due to self-isolation rules.
Similarly, don’t expect a loosening of border restrictions for tourists coming by other means of travel in the near future.
Although border restrictions are a federal decision, on Monday Henry underscored her concern about tourists arriving in the province.
“Broad reopening of our borders in not in our best interests in the coming weeks,” she said.
The likely lost cruise ship season will be a massive blow to tourism in the capital, as the industry generates $130 million a year for the local economy.
And it's not just tourism that may be affected. Amenities, like the lower causeway in the inner harbour, are maintained by the harbour authority, which makes 70 per cent of its revenue through cruise ships.
“Cruises help us do a lot of things,” said Robertson. “It helps us sustain a lot of the community amenities that residents and visitors use. I’m talking about the breakwater [at Ogden Point], I’m talking about the lower causeway.”
Meanwhile, ferries like the Coho and the Clipper — that travel between Victoria and Washington State — remain closed for the foreseeable future. However, Clipper Vacations says it hopes to reopen this summer, according to CEO David Gudgel.
“In order to do that we need people to feel comfortable in travelling,” Gudgel said. “We need to provide the safest environment that we can, and we also need Victoria to be open and operational.”
The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, shut since late March, has laid off about 500 staff, but is now planning to reopen around July.
Janneika Spremberg works at the hotel and says she knows it won’t be full when it reopens and may not have any international guests at that point.
“That’s why we are first primarily focussing on business from B.C. and really even local travel like Victorians who want to make a staycation at the hotel.”