Nearly one million people visited Greater Victoria via cruise ship this year, and now the local harbour authority is celebrating the record number amid another major milestone.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) says so far, 970,000 cruise visitors have sailed into Victoria’s Ogden Point in 2023 — a 26 per cent increase from last year despite fewer ships.
This is due to higher ship occupancy, according to the GVHA. It says 326 ships docked, or are still scheduled to dock, in B.C.’s capital between April and October.
“Welcoming close to one million cruise passengers to our incredible city and region positively impacts the visitor economy,” said Robert Lewis-Manning, GVHA CEO, in a news release Wednesday.
“We are grateful to the many local businesses, tour operators and cruise lines for making Victoria a vibrant destination.”
10 million milestone
In August, GVHA welcomed Victoria’s 10-millionth cruise passenger. Two families received the title, including a Victoria couple on their first cruise.
“I think we’re sort of treating it like a bit of a staycation, visit downtown like every other tourist, then we’ll head back to the ship and enjoy an empty ship,” said Ryan Fairchild, who was with his wife, Rebecca.
The other family, from the United Kingdom, said they were “absolutely” surprised by the occasion.
“A lovely surprise,” said Emma Lonergan, who was travelling with her husband, Liam, and their 13-year-old daughter.
The families were on the Cunard Queen Elizabeth cruise, which took them from Vancouver to Alaska with a stop in Victoria on the second to last day.
“With the demand for cruising to Alaska continuing to be very strong, Victoria remains a port of choice for cruise visitors. This demand will result in a continued positive economic impact of cruise to the Region,” said Lindsay Gaunt, GVHA’s director of cruise development.
“Victoria is a highly rated destination by cruise passengers,” she said, applauding ship crew members who “act as ambassadors” for the region.
In 2023, four ships celebrated their inaugural calls to Victoria, including the Carnival Luminosa, L’Austral, MS Insignia and Scenic Eclipse. The Celebrity Solstice, which has visited Victoria annually since 2013, completed its final voyage to the city this summer and will call to Vancouver starting next year.
Decades of cruise ships
Cruise ships have been visiting Victoria for 54 years now, according to the GVHA.
In August, Victoria’s Mayor Marianne Alto said the cruise industry was a “valued and vital” part of the regional visitor industry “that continues to create countless career opportunities and support the livelihood of Victorians.”
It was an industry battered by the pandemic and 2023 was expected to bring a big rebound in fortunes.
The GVHA, highlighting a 2019 Economic Impact Study, says the cruise industry creates jobs and injects tens of millions of dollars annually into the local economy.
This includes about $23.7 million on tours and local transportation, $14.6 million on retail goods and $6.7 million on food and beverages. Crew members, meanwhile, spend about $117, contributing a total of $11.4 million to the economy.
“Finally, cruise lines expenditures contribute $84 million on services such as transportation, warehousing, port fees, ship agents and stevedores,” added the GVHA.
Greater Victoria’s cruise season wraps up on Oct. 29 when the Norwegian Sun arrives.