The dock is empty at Clipper Vacations, and it will remain that way as the company announces a full halt in service until the Spring of 2021.
“This was a really tough decision,” said Clipper CEO David Gudgel. “When we saw that the 14 day self-isolation order was to remain in affect until the 31st of August, that meant we were losing all of our summer.”
The travel company that normally takes passengers to and from Victoria and Seattle is hunkering down to save costs, and store enough cash to restart next year.
It was a blow they didn’t see coming back in March, hoping to reopen this Summer after halting sailings earlier in the year.
“We started modelling right away about what a worse case scenario would be if we lost our whole summer, and I have to say that while we were running those models and trying to figure out the ‘what ifs,’ that this did not seem like a real option,” explained Gudgel.
The now cemented loss of Seattle passengers this year a significant loss to Victoria’s tourism industry.
“Visitors from the Seattle Washington area represents about 15 to 20 per cent of our revenue, not all of that is from the clipper, but its significant,” said Destination Victoria CO Paul Nursey. “More importantly, Seattle visitors are exactly the type of visitors we want to attract, they’re high spending.”
Overall, Nursey says Victoria’s industry is being dealt a catastrophic blow, saying this year they are expecting to lose 85 per cent of its revenue.
The provincial government has been pushing for people to be tourists in their own towns, and to travel in B.C., but is it enough?
Nursey says the idea is naive.
“This notion that if we all just travel in B.C. and spend money within B.C. is reckless to think that Canadians can even sustain a portion of our economy,” said the tourism expert. “It will help us in the short term but it’s not sustainable and the industry will collapse.”
He says the solution, when it is safe to do so, is to look at inviting visitors from across Canada to Victoria, and eventually creating what are called “Air Bridges”-an agreement that allows entry for international visitors from select countries with low numbers of COVID-19.
It’s unclear when exactly that will be but as for the Clipper, they’re pretty confident their business will stay afloat.
“We are a healthy company and we have some backing from another lager company abroad, and with these actions we will be able to return to service next spring,” said Gudgel.