Transport Canada has extended a ban on cruise ships to the end of February as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s the third time the federal agency has imposed a ban on visiting cruise ships, after the federal government extended the ban at the end of May , sinking Vancouver’s lucrative summer cruise ship season.
Port of Vancouver spokesperson Arpen Rana said Friday that Vancouver’s cruise season begins in April and concludes in October, so they can’t speculate on the revenue impact for 2021 but said the port supports the decision.
“As a Canada Port Authority, we support and follow the direction of Transport Canada regarding the recently announced extension of measures pertaining to cruise ships,” said Rana.
“We are actively engaged in discussions with the cruise industry and tourism partners to support the industry under these challenging conditions.”
Rana did not say when the port expected the ban to lift, or whether it might be extended into the spring, but said the agency is working with the Association of Canadian Port Authorities Cruise Committee to resume safe cruises sometime next year.
The committee is made up of all port authorities with cruise terminals in Canada.
Given that the extension ends before the season kicks into gear in May, it does not change much in terms of anticipated revenue lost, said Sabrina Tey, a spokesperson for Tourism Vancouver.
The ban has taken a heavy toll this year on Vancouver’s tourism industry, as an estimated 1.3 million cruise ship passengers on 310 ships were scheduled to make port in Vancouver in 2020 before the pandemic hit.
Each ship translates into $3 million in tourism spending.
Dayna Miller, director of global partnerships for Tourism Vancouver, told Postmedia earlier this year that the tourism industry hoped locals would replace at least part of the loss of international tourism. However, she also said international visitors tend to spend more time and spend more on vacation.
She said Metro Vancouver saw 11 million visitors in 2019 and an estimated $9.8 billion in total visitor spending. For 2020, Tourism Vancouver is forecasting four million visitors and a 68-per-cent decline in total visitor spending.
Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced the extension on Thursday, saying cruise ships with overnight accommodations carrying more than 100 people continue to be prohibited from operating in Canadian waters.
All other passenger vessels must continue following provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority guidance. Passenger vessels carrying more than 12 people continue to be prohibited from entering Arctic coastal waters, including Nunatsiavut, Nunavik and the Labrador Coast.
Tourism has also suffered because the U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel.
-with files from Susan Lazaruk