(Vancouver) Recent developments in cruise ship tourism suggest that BC needs a coordinated strategy for developing the industry. Such an approach would ensure ports aren’t played off against each other and help communities maximize the economic benefits of cruise tourism.
Playing Off the Ports: BC and the Cruise Tourism Industry, by Memorial University professor and industry expert Ross Klein, offers a series of recommendations for strengthening the economic impact of cruise tourism in the province and creating longer-term stability for port communities.
With the development of faster ships, Alaska-bound cruises are increasingly departing from Seattle instead of Vancouver, creating greater opportunities for other BC ports to receive en-route stops. But without a coordinated plan, communities risk losing out to competition.
“Ports around BC, such as Nanaimo, Campbell River and Prince Rupert, are spending millions of dollars to build facilities, while also offering low port use fees,” says Klein. “Investing public funds to attract cruise tourism has many potential benefits, but there are also risks if ports are being played off against each other by a notoriously footloose industry.”
Klein points to examples such as the decision by Celebrity Cruises to change its port of call for the ship Mercury from Nanaimo in 2005 to Campbell River in 2006, and in 2004 to shorten its stops in Prince Rupert to one-hour “technical calls,” where passengers do not disembark the ship.
“The provincial government and ports can ensure that cruise tourism evolves into a stable source of economic development,” says Klein. “Even if, as some analysts predict, growth in Alaska-bound cruises stagnates, there is still potential for a growing industry in BC. This is a beautiful province with a great deal of value as a destination in its own right, and as a stop en route to Alaska. This value needs to be at the core of how cruise tourism is developed.”
The recommendations outlined in the paper include:
- The province should, in partnership with port communities, develop a coordinated approach to cruise tourism that would reduce the risk of competition among ports. This should include a standardized per-passenger levy — similar to what is being considered in Alaska — that would benefit all cruise destinations in BC.
- The province should explore the creation of a “made in BC” cruise product that would promote BC-focused itineraries. This could include partnering with private interests to deliver BC-only cruises; inducing an existing cruise line to offer a BC product; and/or building capacity of operators in BC.
- Rather than sell themselves as a bargain, ports should focus on their value as a destination and consider exploiting the small cruise ship niche that caters to wealthier clients seeking to get away from big crowds and generic port experiences.
- The province needs to lobby the federal government to implement environmental standards for the industry so that BC doesn’t continue to risk losing its value as a “naturally beautiful” destination. Other West coast jurisdictions, including Alaska and California, are well ahead of BC in setting and enforcing environmental standards.
To arrange an interview with Ross Klein, call Avi Goldberg at 604-801-5121 ext 229.