‘Widespread devastation’: Victoria tourism industry faces more blows, comes up with ‘rescue’ plan

'Widespread devastation': Victoria tourism industry faces more blows, comes up with 'rescue' plan
WatchWith the cruise ship season likely over and the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon now cancelled, the local tourism sector has come up with a rescue plan. April Lawrence reports.

Victoria’s cruise ship terminal is eerily quiet for this time of year with wildlife rather than boatloads of tourists making up most of the action.

And it will likely stay that way for the rest of the year. On Tuesday, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said cruise passengers won’t be welcome in the province at all this summer.

“Quite frankly I support their comments and personally I don’t think we’ve seen enough movement if I can say this to the south of the border,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

“The health and safety of Victoria residents need to continue to be the number one priority,” he said.

But it will come at a cost. Robertson says the cruise industry contributes more than $130 million dollars to the local economy each year and employs more than a thousand people.

“I think in the future and through summer and fall we’re going to see some businesses go bankrupt and I am concerned for that,” he said.

And it’s not the only blow to the region’s tourism sector this week. October’s Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon has now been cancelled.

“We’re looking at over $12 million to the local community. We have 20 to 25 different countries represented, 8000 plus people and all shapes and sizes and ages,” said marathon General manager Cathy Noel.

But with limits of 50 people or fewer for events, Noel says it just wasn’t going to be possible.

“I think what we’re seeing is the widespread devastation of our industry and this is one more example,” said Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey.

On Wednesday the Greater Victoria Rescue and Recovery Task Force, a group of 12 local tourism business leaders, outlined its priorities for the government to keep the industry alive. It includes extending the wage subsidy well into 2021 and interest-free loans, grants, and subsidies.

“It will be a slow, grinding, 18 month to three-year recovery and I think that’s what we need to prepare for, and bunker down, and work towards,” said Nursey.

And Nursey says once restrictions loosen, the hope is that Vancouver Island residents will get out and support tourism operators, hotels, and restaurants.

“If we can get that going at least it’s a restart and that would be something.”

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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