It pumps billions of dollars into the Canadian economy every year.
But as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Canada and the World Health Organization declares a global pandemic, cruise ship season is looking murkier by the day.
“The Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending that Canadians avoid all cruise ship travel due to COVID-19,” said Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam.
In Greater Victoria, where over 800,000 passengers are scheduled to visit this year, local leaders have the same message.
“When we looked at what happened in Italy and South Korea it didn’t take more than a month or so for the cases to climb out of control. So what we want to do is be safe, our health care system is already burdened,” said Langford Mayor Stewart Young.
Cancelled ships could be devastating for the local economy.
“If we do have the kind of secondary effect of cruise ships and tourism being by experience with COVID-19 elsewhere, that will affect our local businesses that rely on those industries,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce Chair Catherine Holt.
But Young says it’s health over dollars.
“It’s more important to keep people healthy and safe from COVID than it is to worry about the losses of the dollars because if they come and they create havoc on our health care system you can spend 10 billion dollars and it wouldn’t be enough,” said Young.
The first ship scheduled to arrive in Victoria on April 3 is the Grand Princess. The same ship currently docked in California after at least 21 people on board tested positive for Coronavirus. Transport Canada has, at this point, not issued a cruise ship ban but talks with health officials are ongoing.