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Cruise business going strong in Victoria

Five millionth passenger symbolically marked last week

Cruise ship season is winding down for another year, by the end of which 210 vessels and more than 464,000 tourists will have passed through Ogden Point.

While the numbers are down slightly from last year’s record-breaking 503,000 visitors, the local cruise industry hit a milestone last week as the five-millionth passenger made a port of call in Victoria.

Newlyweds Michael Alastair Nace and Patricia Louise Guthrie of Santee, Calif. shared the honour on Aug. 30, courtesy of Tourism Victoria.

“Cruise is a very strong foundational piece for the (tourism) industry. It allows other businesses to grow and develop,” said Curtis Grad, president and CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

While the ever-expanding cruise ships don’t benefit the hotel industry during their stay, they translate to upwards of 7,000 passengers filtering into downtown restaurants, stores and beyond for adventure experiences and sightseeing every weekend.

“Butchart (Gardens) is obviously the strongest tourism product we have, bar none, but I would venture to guess that without cruise, a lot of smaller attractions would have a much more difficult time surviving in difficult times, like the ones we’ve been through in the last three or four years,” Grad said.

The demographic of cruise ship passengers is progressively younger, he said, with more families choosing to cruise. “You often see three generations travelling together as well.”

Final 2013 passenger tallies won’t be released until October, after the last ship has come and gone, but Ogden Point will be ready for another banner year in 2014, Grad said.