St. John's still seeking large cruise ships despite expert's advice, says Mayor O'Keefe
Mayor says larger ships still lucrative and much easier to attract than smaller vessels
The City of St.John's is doing everything it can to attract a variety of cruise ships to the city's port, according to Mayor Dennis O'Keefe.
A report released earlier this week showed that many Canadian cities, including St.John's, should see a big year for cruise travellers in 2017 — bringing with them money to inject in the local economy.
However, on Wednesday cruise industry expert Ross Klein said St. John's should focus less on attracting large cruise ships with thousands of passengers, and instead should seek out smaller "expedition" or "adventure" cruise lines with passengers who have more time and money to spend.
Mayor O'Keefe admits the larger ships aren't quite as lucrative, but are still lucrative enough to focus on bringing in as many as the city can.
"All Ross Klein needs to do is talk to the taxi industry, and he'll learn how delighted the taxi operators are," said O'Keefe. "Those ships have a major economic impact. I see [passengers] going back on board these ships, and they're carrying packages. They're spending money."
Open to all cruise types
O'Keefe said the bigger cruise lines are easier to attract to the St. John's port than the smaller cruise lines, which typically have passengers that spend more money, per capita.
The vessels the city really wants to bring in are those that will treat St. John's as a home port, which means the passengers will fly in to the city and stay in hotels before departing on the cruise. O'Keefe said officials are doing what they can to attract those, but it's not always easy.
"The city does go out and market for a variety of cruise types, including transatlantic," he told the St. John's Morning Show.
"Right now we're having a lot more success with the larger transatlantic cruise ship activity than we are with the home porting. We're marketing both and that's the whole purpose of meeting the executives of these cruise lines, meeting with itinerary planners, bringing them here when we can and branching out into new cruise lines like Disney."
While 2016 was a great year, with the city not losing one scheduled ship visit due to weather, O'Keefe said 2017 could be up by 96 per cent.
In 2016, 20 ships docked at the city's port with 22,000 passengers and crew coming through downtown St. John's. In 2017 that number is forecasted at 39 ship visits carrying 52,000 passengers and crew.
Big ships mean big dollars
O'Keefe said that means the total economic impact, including money spent on things like taxis, could be between $4 million and $5 million over the next year.
The mayor said those numbers are being seen in other ports across the country, and despite the advice of experts he has no plans to shift the city's focus away from big cruise liners.
"Why is it that other ports in Atlantic Canada like Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown and Saint John are investing millions of dollars into new facilities and building terminals for cruise ship activity if it isn't lucrative?" he said.