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Comment: As cruise ships are allowed to return, it's full steam ahead

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Ovation of the Seas at the Odgen Point cruise ship terminal in 2019. The return of cruise-ship traffic to B.C. will have a massive impact on many coastal communities, the authors write. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The ports along the west coast are thrilled to welcome back international visitors passionate about cruising our spectacular shorelines. It’s been 19 months since our ports have been closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The federal government’s decision to lift cruise ship restrictions starting Monday, four months earlier than originally planned, is welcome news, and thanks in part to strong advocacy to the federal government with our tourism industry partners.

Undoubtedly, the cruise ship industry is important to B.C.’s tourism ecosystem and the thousands of people whose livelihoods rely on the regular arrival of ships, the small businesses that showcase the best of their region and the visitors who ­benefit from experiencing all that B.C. has to offer.

British Columbia is a ­destination of choice. In 2019, 1.8 million tourists from around the world booked trips to sail from our ports and, in many cases, to Alaska.

Throughout the pandemic, B.C.’s cruise-related businesses have felt the deep impact of health, safety and travel restrictions, as well as temporary amendments and proposed changes to the U.S. Passenger Vessel Services Act.

These changes are aimed at allowing foreign-flagged cruise ships to bypass laws that require them to make an international stopover en route to Alaska from an American port.

All hands are on deck to ensure B.C.’s cruise ship ­industry comes back strong. The ministries of Tourism, Arts, ­Culture and Sport and ­Transportation and Infrastructure formed and co-lead a cruise ship restart committee as we ­follow expert health guidance and plan for the safe return of cruise ­passengers to B.C.

We will ensure government and industry partners continue to call for strong federal efforts to change the course of American legislation affecting cruises through Canadian waters.

In 2019, cruise travel generated $2.7 billion for the B.C. economy and provided more than 17,000 good-paying jobs.

Cruise bookings for 2022 already indicate a ­promising future for the sector with 600 ports of call or vessel calls, in just Vancouver and Victoria alone.

We anticipate seeing over a million passengers in each port, with many of these ships ­stopping at Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, Port Alberni and Alert Bay ports. The resumption of cruise stops in B.C. is a win-win for many cruise passengers eager to explore beyond the ­railings of their ship.

Resuming cruise ships in our waters signals another step toward our strong recovery.

Upholding the highest health and safety standards for those disembarking on our shores is exactly the type of assurance we and international visitors expect. Monday will be a great day for all the workers, businesses, ­communities and visitors who value the power of cruise.

Mark is B.C.’s Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister; Judas is CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.; Robertson is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Written with the support of Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure; Brenda Baptiste, chair of ­Indigenous Tourism B.C.; Richard Porges, president and CEO of Destination B.C.; and Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO of the B.C. Hotel Association.