British Columbia

Ban on cruise ships until 2022 deals another blow to businesses relying on tourism

The federal government's ban on cruise ships carrying more than 100 people has been extended until February 2022 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, wiping out another season for an industry that struggling to survive.

Federal government's ban on cruise ships carrying more than 100 people has been extended another year

Two cruise ships docked at Canada Place in Vancouver in September 2019. A ban on cruise ship visits due to COVID-19 has been extended another year until February 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Silver Gallery in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood is still open, but a number of nearby shops are closed, with windows covered in brown paper.

According to Celia Tang, the shop's manager, some days will result in just a single sale. Before the pandemic, there could be as many as 50.

Silver Gallery is just one example of a business that relies on tourism, especially the cruise ships that used to dock nearby.

On Thursday, federal officials announced that the current ban on cruise ships arriving in Canada will be extended until February 2022, meaning another season will be completely wiped out.

"I'm very upset, yes, but what can we do? We're just hoping next year they will be back," said Tang. "The sooner the better."

Celia Tang, manager of the Silver Gallery in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood, says the loss of tourism during the pandemic — especially the cruise ships — has been challenging, as sales have dropped by 75 per cent. (Susana da Silva/CBC)

She said the shop has tried to focus on online sales, but business has been down 75 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

Tourism industry leaders are reacting with resignation.

"I don't think anybody in the industry was surprised by the announcement," said Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C., adding that he had still hoped there might a limited cruise season this year.

"People are fearful, they're very concerned about their businesses," said Judas. "They're just hanging on by a thread today and it's doubtful they'll be able to hang on for another season."

He said the lack of cruise ships arriving in Victoria and Vancouver hits all sorts of businesses, from restaurants and retail outlets to hotels and transportation companies.

'It's a real blow'

According to Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, there were supposed to be 287 ship calls in Victoria this year. He said the ban's economic impact on the the region is more than $130 million, and it affects more than 800 jobs, directly and indirectly.

"It's a real blow," said Robertson, adding that he was surprised to see the ban extended for an entire year.

He said he's focusing on ensuring the wage subsidy program is extended beyond June to help companies survive another lost season.

"Health and safety of Victoria residents is paramount, so we support the decision," said Robertson.

With files from Susana da Silva

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