Victoria's business community headed for rough waters amid cruise cancellations, travel advisories
Published Friday, March 13, 2020 8:32PM PDT
VICTORIA -- With cruise ship visits being cancelled and travel advisories in place, Victoria's second-largest industry is bracing for major losses.
Tourism in the Victoria region brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every year and supports thousands of jobs, both directly and indirectly. The full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and all of the fallout from it is still to be determined.
Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Catherine Holt says the chamber's members are nervous about the economic effects from losing the cruise ship revenue and other tourism-related business, but hopes local residents can help.
“We need to get out and support our local businesses and our community in ways that are not a risk to our health; that’s most of our businesses and most of our community," Holt said. "So, it’s a beautiful spring, you’re probably not travelling for spring break, so go out and support your local business”.
She said it’s important to stop the spread of the virus, but reminds people that there has only been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Victoria so far.
Andrew Capeau, owner and president of Victoria Pedicab Company, was expecting 2020 to be the biggest year for business in the 19 years he has owned the company.
His company relies heavily on the cruise ship business and he is concerned for his 40 seasonal operators that tour customers around the city on bikes.
“I’m hoping for a record year," Capeau said. "Hopefully, it’s not a record in the other way. Only time will tell … Hopefully it will be safe for the community first and foremost."
He agrees that the cruise ship ban is necessary to stop the spread of the virus now rather than allowing it to continue and create even more economic hardship down the road with longer and tougher bans and travel advisories. He says the health of the community should come first and remains optimistic that some of the season can still be salvaged.
“Let's hope by July first we have a sense, we have things under control and people are ready to travel; and it will be right at the peak of our tourism season so we’re hopeful things will turn around," he said.
Barry Hobbis, vice president of operations for the Victoria Harbour Ferry, says the company's business will see rough waters ahead for sure, but thinks that local businesses need to help each other out and come up with ways to generate business locally.
“We could hide our head in the sand and say, ‘Oh, woe is me, this is going to be a really horrible year,' or we can sit down and collectively work with other businesses and our staff and figure out, 'how do we turn a really horrible year into simply a bad year?'"
Hobbis believes there should be more leadership to bring local business owners together to come up with solutions like marketing to people here on the Island. He says he and other businesses began preparing for a possible cruise ship ban weeks ago.
In May 2018, Tourism Victoria commissioned a report called ‘Economic Impact of Tourism in Greater Victoria, B.C.’ The report details just how much tourism plays a role in Victoria’s economy, directly and indirectly.
According to the report, there are 16,900 jobs directly related to tourism in the capital region. "Directly related," in this case, means tourists buy goods and services. Those businesses brought in $647 million in 2016.
Additionally, there were 3,100 "indirect" jobs supplying and supporting the industry, generating another $325 million.
Then, there was the trickle-down effect from people working in the local tourism industry and spending their hard-earned money. That accounted for 2,300 jobs in other areas of the economy and $261 million.
The total impact on Greater Victoria’s economy, according to the report, is 22,300 jobs, a GDP of $1.2 billion, an economic output of $2.3 billion and tax revenues of $376 million.
It’s not just the cruise ship cancelations that are having an impact, the cancellation of concerts, sporting events and speakers – such as Michelle Obama’s upcoming talk at the Save-On Foods Memorial Arena – are all costing the local economy.
That is why the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and local business are encouraging Islanders to get out and be a tourist in their own hometowns to help keep the economy rolling this spring break and beyond.