As Canada’s busiest port of call gears up for its first cruise season in two years, a new report aims to sink the industry by poking holes in the economic importance of cruise ships in the Greater Victoria region.
“By any statistical measure, the economic benefits of non-cruise tourism in Victoria, British Columbia, dwarf the impacts of cruise-related tourism,” the environmental advocacy organization Stand.earth said in a press release.
The report published Stand.earth, prepared by Responsible Travel Consulting, uses industry data from 2019 to show that the average cruise ship passenger spending onshore spending is relatively low at $87.36, while overnight visitors spend an average of $700, or 7 times more.
“And that’s true,” said Barry Penner, legal advisor, Cruise Lines International Association. “Cruise lines have never said that they’re their majority, they’re just an important component.”
The report though goes on to conclude that as a result, the cruise ship industry’s economic value in Victoria is ‘overblown’.
Citing industry data from 2019 which shows that cruise ship tourists brought $137.1 million to the region, while tourists who stayed overnight brought in nearly 20 times more at nearly $3 billion in spending.
But after two years of little to no tourism due to the pandemic, cruise ship industry representatives like Penner says every little bit counts.
“One reason why people spending the night in Victoria end up spending more money is the cost of hotel accommodation,” said Penner. “Passengers on cruise ships book shore excursions, whale watching, pedicabs, tours, they go to Butchart Gardens.
The report also paints Victoria as a stop cruises are forced to make, typically on their way to other destinations like Alaska.
“The scope and scale of activities that take place at Victoria’s cruise terminal are largely subservient to the U.S., particularly the Seattle-based cruise ship industry,” the report reads.
It’s something Penner actually agrees with but says the report fails to mention that cruise trippers who stumble upon Victoria, also come back in big numbers.
“Significant numbers, sometimes a majority of those people who visit Victoria by accident, by getting off the cruise, they like it so much they decide to make a follow-up trip specifically to come back to Victoria,” said Penner.
“Then they stay in the hotels, and leave an even larger amount behind.”
All things considered, the James Bay Neighbourhood Association says the face-value, and limited economic impacts of the industry are important to consider, especially when up against environmental concerns.
“That’s what we want in James Bay. We want a better quality of life, which really means we want the cruise industry to do no harm,” said Marg Gardiner, President of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association.
With Gardiner repeating the association’s decade-long calls for a locals-first approach, with more sustainable goals, including the long called for staggered arrivals and departures of ships for better traffic flow.
Victoria’s 2022 cruise season kicks off Saturday, April 9 with the Holland America Koningsdam (which is now reporting no cases of COVID-19).
Both the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and the Victoria Cruise Industry Alliance told CHEK News they were too busy preparing for the upcoming season and the first ship arriving Saturday to comment.
Destination Greater Victoria and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps didn’t respond to CHEK News’ request for comment.