British Columbia

Cruise360 conference docks in Vancouver to discuss booming business

More than 1,000 travel professionals are in Vancouver to explore a steadily growing cruise industry and a port that's climbing back to its pre-9/11 numbers.

Tourism Vancouver says each cruise ship that docks here brings in $2M in economic activity

Vancouver's cruise ship industry is slowly making its way back to its pre-9/11 numbers. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

More than 1,000 travel professionals are in Vancouver to explore a steadily growing cruise industry and a port that's climbing back to its pre-9/11 numbers. 

The Cruise360 conference is taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre from June 1 to 6, with about 1,350 delegates attending from around the world, taking part in workshops and exploring the city. 

For Dayna Miller, director of leisure travel sales with Tourism Vancouver, the delegates she's keeping her eyes on are the 650 travel agents. 

"The more they have an opportunity to explore Vancouver, get to know the various attractions and get to know what the city has to offer, they're better equipped to recommend Vancouver to their clients," Miller said. 

She says research shows more than 70 per cent of passengers spend an average 2.5 nights in the city before or after they board. 

"That means a lot of spending in our destination, and international visitors coming in and spending time seeing Vancouver," Miller said. 

Tourism Vancouver calculates each ship brings in about $2 million in economic activity. 

Making a comeback

Miller says growth in the cruise industry as a whole has been outpacing travel more generally, with three per cent growth last year. 

She attributes that growth to the wide range of products and amenities cruises have to offer, as well as marketing targeted to a broad demographic. 

While cruises may bring to mind an older clientele, Miller says cruise lines have been working to expand the age range of the market. 

"Generally speaking, Alaska may skew a little bit older, but ... with Disney cruise lines being in Vancouver you're seeing families with young children," she said. 

But while the cruise industry as a whole is growing, Miller says Vancouver is still playing catch-up to its pre-9/11 glory days, when numbers reached above one million passengers in a season. 

After 2001, American tourists — who make up the majority of cruise clientele — shied away from international travel because of security concerns, preferring to board in U.S ports instead. 

Miller says the number of cruisers leaving from Vancouver dipped as low as 500,000, but has since climbed back up. 

"We've definitely moved right back up in the right direction with 830,000 [passengers] — a healthy number and the ships are going out full," Miller said. "The cruise lines like doing business in Vancouver."