Government Street businesses need support, prepping for another tourist-free season

File photo.
Government Street was closed off to cars last Summer to promote pedestrian visitors

It’s the epicentre of Victoria’s tourism industry: Government Street. With its souvenir shops, ice cream parlours and unique local businesses, it’s the hotspot for visitors.

But it hasn’t been for nearly 11 months.

Now the concern is with the cancellation of this year’s cruise ship season, the strip will suffer even more.

Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria, said businesses reliant on the cruise ship industry will be devastated.

“They are going to have to adapt. I think if there is any silver lining in all of this, they found out early in early February,” said Nursey.

With so many businesses relying on international tourists, Victoria’s Mayor said the city is doing everything it can to help.

“It is a real hit to all of our businesses. The mayor and city council in our staff, we’re certainly going to continue to do everything we can to support them,” Mayor Lisa Helps said.

In 2019, cruise ships brought more than 700,000 visitors to Victoria. Now, the recovery in the tourism sector is not expected until 2022.

Until then, downtown store operators hope that Greater Victoria residents will help, shopping locally and spending their money in-store or online from them, instead of bix box stores or large online retailers.

There is construction work being done, already changing the character of the downtown core.

More people will be moving in, anchored by the Custom House condominium at the entrance to Government Street and the mayor says that will help.

“I think that there is some hope on the horizon,” said Helps. “We’ve seen this outpouring of support from across the region. Up-Island people want to come to downtown Victoria, it’s a great place to be, there’s lots to see and do.”

It seems locals like the sound of the streetscape with patios back on Government Street, providing mainly very positive feedback to the City.

For now, local shops are depending on local shoppers, hoping to make it through to 2022, when hopefully, the streets will be filled with people from all over the world.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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