A 4.3 billion dollar industry is in trouble; that much is clear now the Canadian cruise industry is lagging behind the rest of the world. A cruise ban that has been in place since early last year is playing havoc on ports and their personnel, operators, and suppliers.
Sadly enough, it could very well be that those involved with the Canadian cruise industry are not out of trouble yet, despite the ban being lifted from November 1.
Several US government officials have been vocal about making a temporary law that allowed cruise ships to bypass Canada for the 2021 season permanent. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada and many more stakeholders call on the Canadian government to take swift action before an already lousy situation becomes even worse.
The call to ban cruise ships from Canadian shores has been one that many in the tourism and cruise industries have considered unnecessary. When Canada introduced the ban in February, only a few ships were operational in Europe and none in North America.
Since then, cruise ship-based tourism has restarted successfully worldwide, including the US, but cruise ships remained banned from Canada. Despite some hopeful signs, a lot of work remains:
“In June, we asked for clarity, certainty, and confidence from the government, and they understood and responded to our request by lifting the suspension on cruise ships in Canadian waters by November 1, 2021,” said Walt Judas, CEO of Tourism Industry Association of BC. “But the industry is not yet back operating, and the road map is still needed between industry partners, the Province of BC, and the Government of Canada.
The cruise industry in Canada is responsible for $4.3 billion in total output, with $2.7 billion contributed to the BC economy alone, and supports 30,000 jobs across Canada – 17,000 of them in British Columbia – including food and beverage suppliers, hotels, retailers, taxis, visitor destinations, port workers, and maintenance contractors.
Most of these workers count on the Alaskan cruise season for their income. With the cruise ban in place in Canada, the United States implemented a temporary law, called the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, that would allow cruise ships to sail on cruises to Alaska without having to call in a foreign port; which the Passenger Vessel Services Act demands of passenger ships.
This has been a positive move for the ports in the United States, which have seen increased traffic and income. No surprise then that US Senator Murkowski has proposed legislation that provides a permanent exemption to the PVSA. It would allow Alaska-bound cruise ships to bypass destinations such as Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, and Prince Rupert.
As with many laws that have been implemented in the last 20 months, while they serve to keep people safe from COVID-19, these laws have also been devastating to local economies.
Several local organizations, including the BC Hotel Association, BC Maritime Employers Association, Tourism Industry Association of Canada, The Canadian Chamber of commerce, and the Chamber of shipping, are now asking for swift action from the Canadian government to save an industry on the brink of collapse.
Worth Reading: First Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Returns to Alaska
Can the Canadian Cruise Industry Be Saved?
The Canadian cruise industry depends mainly on ships with their homeport in the United States, which means the current situation is more damaging to Canadian tourism than that of the United States.
If the legislation from Senator Murkowski and Rep. Young on the House side of the US Congress is passed, it could decimate British Columbia’s cruise industry. Something the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Ian Robertson, understands all too well:
“Ports along the entire West Coast have built strong relationships which recognize that international boundaries are not a barrier to the collaborative growth of our economies. The pandemic has shown us that we need to maintain open and constructive dialogue across borders.
“The Government of Canada understands the damage that was caused when we closed our ports to cruise ships and then didn’t respond to requests to find solutions for the 2021 cruise season in Alaska. Now is the time to work on repairing those relationships.”
The situation now calls for the same people that almost prevented the Alaska cruise season from happening, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Transport Canada, to go to US legislators and ask them for cooperation.
“The Government of Canada needs to ensure that future cruise seasons are not disrupted like what has happened in these last couple of years. Canadian jobs need to be protected now and into the future. We need a clear path forward.” said Rob Ashton, President of International Longshore and Warehouse Union – Canada.
The question remains whether or not the US legislation is passed. The PVSA is an outdated law that had been under discussion before the pandemic; Canada’s cruise ban only put the act under a magnifying glass. Sadly, the suffering people, those working in the Canadian cruise industry, can only look from the sideline and hope for the best.