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Cruise cancellations to cost Vancouver tourism businesses millions
VANCOUVER -- The financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread as dramatically as the virus, and one Thursday development will suck millions of dollars out of Vancouver’s tourism industry.
Princess Cruise Lines has announced it will dock its entire fleet for a minimum of 60 days. The decision will impact at least five scheduled stops in Vancouver between now and mid-May.
According to Tourism Vancouver, each cruise ship that sails under the Lions Gate bridge to dock at Canada Place is worth an average of $3 million to the local economy.
The decision by Princess will hit hotels, tour operators and the restaurant industry hard.
“I just talked to a restauranteur here in the city – they own several restaurants – and they can last for maybe three months and then they’re gone, and they’re toast and they're bankrupt,” said Ian Tostenson of the BC Restaurant and Food Service Association. “It means thousands of jobs gone.”
The local cruise ship season generally takes off in earnest in May, around the time Princess plans to begin sailing again. Of course, that decision could change over coronavirus fears.
“I would definitely not take a cruise at the moment, just because of how the virus spreads,” said tourist Penny Chapman.
A number of cruise lines have waived fees for people wishing to change or cancel their bookings, and that means even the ships that do call on Vancouver in the next few weeks may not be full.
“We are processing more cancellations than bookings,” said Sanjay Goel, president of Cruise Connections Canada. “I don’t mind telling you. We can’t discount someone’s fear. It’s real.”
Both the federal and provincial health ministries have advised Canadians to avoid cruise travel during the pandemic, but so far officials haven't banned the ships from Canadian ports of call.
“I don’t think there’s any question that there’s a significant economic impact when cruises don’t leave from just behind us here, when there’s less restaurant business, when there’s less business, period,” said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix near Canada Place Thursday.
More than 230 ships call on Vancouver each year and if Princess decides to extend its hiatus or other cruise lines cancel their sailings as well, the economic hit will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.