The influence of the COVID-19 pandemic was written in red ink all over the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority’s annual financial statements released Wednesday.
With the cruise industry shut down in Canada, the GVHA saw a near $9-million hit to its cruise-ship revenue leading to the organization reporting a $1.1-million loss for the fiscal year ended March 31. The authority collects revenue from a cruise passenger tariff, sustainability fee and ancillary revenue through cruise support services.
The financial results, released in the GVHA’s annual report, paint a picture of an industry paralyzed by the pandemic. Overall, the authority’s loss was the result of operating revenues of $7.1 million and expenses of $8.2 million.
“The impact of the loss of our 2020 cruise season cannot be overstated. This loss was devastating not only to our organization, but also to the many partner companies who service the cruise industry,” the report said.
The authority owns and operates waterfront properties including Ogden Point, the Inner Harbour Causeway, Fisherman’s Wharf and the CPR Steamship Terminal building.
It said the 2020 cruise season was projected to be another record-breaker with close to 300 ships and 770,000 passengers projected to arrive through the season. That evaporated when Transport Canada suspended cruise ships in Canadian waters until February 2022.
The organization relies on cruise ships to fund its operations, as it gets 70 per cent of all its revenue from their visits, with the balance from tourism-related commercial operations.
Losses could have been much higher, but the authority reduced its staff by 47 per cent over the year, cancelled all new capital projects and took advantage of government COVID-19 relief measures to the tune of just over $1.5 million.
The authority completed three capital projects at a cost of $840,529 – the installation of a new mooring dolphin for larger cruise ships, a facilities condition assessment and a shore power feasibility study — that started before the pandemic hit.
“Our organization had to make difficult decisions around layoffs and cuts to capital and infrastructure spending, while acknowledging that we are a 24/7 operation which supports customers that operate their business or live full-time at one of our facilities,” said Christine Willow, chair of the GVHA. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has spanned over two fiscal years, we continue to plan for the future with a goal to return to reinvesting in our facilities and community amenities as revenues return and finances stabilize.”
Last year, the authority posted a surplus of $3.6 million for the fiscal year ended March 31 2020 due to record revenues of $16.3 million.