640,000 passengers for record Victoria cruise season

A record cruise ship season will wrap up on Sunday, and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is already predicting the 2019 season will be bigger and better.

Ian Robertson, chief executive of the harbour authority which oversees the cruise ship terminal at Ogden Point, said continued growth in the Alaska region and Victoria’s commitment to serving the industry will result in another banner season next year.

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“We are seeing a huge increase in interest in the Alaska region and obviously [Victoria], Vancouver and Seattle have all been buoyed by that,” said Robertson. “But Victoria is also highly regarded by the cruise lines because we have an incredibly efficient port.

“The [Canada Border Services Agency] does an amazing job of processing to get people off the ship to enjoy the city and the region and we have excellent shore excursions and tours,” he said.

Through the first port of call in April until this weekend, Victoria will have welcomed nearly 640,000 passengers and 260,000 crew on 250 ship visits with an estimated $130 million in economic impact for the region.

Last year the city welcomed a record 239 calls by cruise ships, with almost 600,000 passengers and more than 239,000 crew visiting the city between April and October. There were 224 calls to Victoria in 2016.

Robertson said investing in Victoria’s infrastructure has paid off. Over the last two seasons the harbour authority will have spent more than $7 million — a portion of which is federal funding — to improve Ogden Point to accommodate larger ships.

This year, work started on lengthening the Pier B mooring dolphin — a structure used to moor large ships — to accommodate Royal Caribbean International Ovation of the Seas next year.

Last year, terminal improvements were undertaken to install new bollards at Pier A in order to accommodate the 168,000-tonne Norwegian Bliss, which meant 1,500 more passengers visiting Victoria on Friday afternoons.

The harbour authority also notes there has been investment in improving transportation and wayfinding at Ogden Point.

“Norwegian Cruise Lines, along with the other 11 cruise lines visited this season, consistently rank Victoria’s Ogden Point Cruise Terminal as a port of call that is welcoming, easy to work with and focused on sustainability and environmental improvements,” said Lindsay Gaunt, the harbour authority’s director of cruise development.

Paul Nursey of Destination Greater Victoria said the cruise ship sector is a key component of the tourism industry.

“Many cruise passengers are introduced to Greater Victoria for the first time on a cruise and then return for a longer land-based vacation. The passengers that disembark at Ogden Point also support our restaurants and attractions, as well as bring a life and vitality to the downtown core,” he said.

The harbour authority is working on establishing Victoria as a home port, with a goal of having a small or mid-sized cruise ship call Victoria home. Robertson said they continue to “move the needle” on that goal.

The authority estimates that as a home port to one or two smaller cruise lines, Victoria could attract pre- and post-cruise tourism business and provide provisioning that could be worth $2 million per ship per excursion.

Currently, the harbour authority estimates each port of call is worth $450,000 to the region.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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