Business owners fear new cruise shuttle route could further impact Indigenous art sales

WatchLower Government Street business owners are voicing their concern over a Victoria city council decision which they say could have a detrimental impact on local Indigenous artists.

Heather Glowicki says her family business is hanging on by a thread.

“Extremely rough, devastating in fact,” said Glowicki, co-owner of seven souvenir and gift shops located on downtown Vicotria’s Government Street.

Some of her store’s most valuable items are created by Indigenous artists from Vancouver Island.

“I do see a lot of them having troubles selling artwork,” said Art Charlie, a carver and employee of Glowicki’s Northwest Origins Gallery and Gifts.

Charlie says he’s noticed a significant drop in Indigenous art sales ever since the pandemic hit.

“Not as much as before, without the cruise ships or the traffic and all that,” said Charlie.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions expected to be lifted in the near future, Glowicki fears Victoria City Council’s recent move to keep lower Government Street as pedestrian-only could be detrimental to her business and subsequently, the Indigenous artists who rely on tourists to purchase their work.

Glowicki’s main concern revolves around how the council’s decision will force cruise ship shuttle busses to now bypass its old stop at Government and Fort Street, instead stopping approximately 140 metres north at Government and View Street.

“The movement of the cruise ship shuttle bus has really rocked our world once again,” said Glowicki.

Glowicki says sales of her store’s indigenous artwork are down approximately 65 per cent over the past two years and that her business largely relies on American tourists.

“We really need a good year to be able to bounce back,” said Glowicki. “We are at risk of closure.”

In a statement to CHEK News, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says city programming including art, culture and street performances will be in place to help ensure passengers continue to venture down the south end of Government Street.

When it comes to the potential negative economic impacts of the new shuttle bus stop on local Indigenous art sales, Helps says there is currently no data to “support this and it is all speculation at this time.”

Glowicki plans to keep fighting Victoria council’s decision. Cruise season begins on April 6.

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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