Cruise ship ban could mean up to $1B loss for Quebec's tourist industry

The federal government's decision to keep cruise ships out of Canadian waters until late autumn has dealt a significant blow to cruise operators in Quebec and much of the province's tourist industry.

'That's our season gone — like dust,' says head of industry group, Cruise the Saint Lawrence

Many Quebec businesses rely on the tourism revenue brought in by cruise ship passengers in the summer. Overnight cruise ships are banned from Canada until Oct. 31. (Daniel Coulombe/Radio-Canada)

The federal government's decision to ban cruise ships from Canadian waters until late autumn has dealt a significant blow to cruise operators in Quebec and much of the province's tourist industry.

"That's our season gone — like dust," says René Trépanier, the executive director of the cruise industry's trade group, Cruise the Saint Lawrence.

Trépanier says the cruise ship industry directly employs 5,000 people in Quebec.

"It touches a fabric of tourism entrepreneurs that is really spread throughout the province," he said.

Hundreds of retail shops and services rely on the revenue brought in by cruise ships as they dock at ports on both sides of the river, including in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, the Gaspé Peninsula and on the Magdalen Islands.

Large cruise ships won't be able to dock at any of Canada's ports until at least the fall, as the federal government extends safety measures to limit the number of cases of the novel coronavirus.

"Cruise ships with overnight accommodation and a capacity of more than 100 persons will be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until at least Oct. 31, said federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau Friday morning.

All other passenger vessels will have to follow regional health authority rules when it comes to time lines, said Garneau.

Besides crew members and employees, Trépanier said hundreds of entrepreneurs that will also lose out on potential business.

Day excursions in small vessels, such as whale-watching tours, will be able to operate as of July 1, however. Trépanier says he hopes that will offer the tourism industry some relief.

With files from Josh Grant, Radio-Canada and CBC Politics

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