More cruise visitors expected next year on bigger ships

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority marked the end of a record cruise-ship season with the arrival of Princess Cruises’ Star Princess at Ogden Point on Monday.

Overall, the harbour authority welcomed 227 ship visits and about 533,000 passengers in 2015 — up from 206 ship visits and about 465,000 passengers the previous year.

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“It’s a record year,” said Ian Robertson, chief executive officer of the harbour authority, which oversees cruise operations at Ogden Point. “It’s a record year for number of ships and number of passengers coming into Victoria.”

Robertson attributed the increase to the growing Alaskan cruise market and the rising appeal of Victoria as a destination port.

“We had one ship that decided to drop one port of call in Alaska to spend more time in Victoria,” Robertson said. “So that means the feedback is coming back to the cruise lines that the passengers like Victoria and they want to spend more time here.”

Robertson said the harbour authority expects the same number of ships in 2016, but even more passengers as cruise lines continue to increase the size of their ships. Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas — the largest cruise ship ever to travel to Alaska — will make 21 stops at Ogden Point next year. The ship has a capacity of 3,100 guests — an increase of more than 1,000 from its predecessor, the Jewel of the Seas.

The harbour authority expects the ship to arrive at 8 a.m. and depart at 6 p.m. every Thursday. The authority estimates that the ship will generate an extra $1.3 million in direct guest spending in the capital region. The 2016 season will kick off April 3 and run to Oct. 17, the harbour authority said.

David Cowen, chairman of Tourism Victoria’s board of directors, said this year’s record cruise season contributed to strong overall tourism numbers. “Our hotel occupancy has been up about four per cent and we’ve seen a good healthy increase in our average daily room rate, which is a good indication that hotels have been busy,” he said.

The average daily room rate is up 9.4 per cent to the end of September, while the revenue per available room rose 15.6 per cent, Tourism Victoria reported.

Cowen attributed the overall growth, in part, to the return of visitors from the United States, as well strong numbers from China, Australia and the United Kingdom. “Globally, tourism is a trillion dollar sector,” he said. “It’s growing year after year and we’re really just starting to get our share.”

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