The number of passengers brought into Victoria via cruise ships is down this year compared to last year, but the positive impact on tourism was still strong.
“The cruise ship business is our secret weapon to introducing hundreds of thousands of people to Victoria for the first time,” said Paul Nursey, CEO of Tourism Victoria.
Bruce Carter, CEO of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce added: “We’re not a one-industry town, but tourism and cruise ships are incredibly important for our economy.”
According to the Oxford Economics Review of Victoria Cruise Impact study from March 2014, cruise ship passenger and crew spending account for $33.4 million, or 68.2 per cent of direct spending in Victoria.
Last year, there were 481,733 passengers and 203 ship calls in Victoria. With only two more ships expected to come in this season, there have been 462,201 passengers so far in 2014.
The additional two ships have an expected 1,432 passengers each, which would bring the total number of passengers up to 465,065.
Prior to the start of the season, the projected number of ship calls for 2014 was 209. However, there were three non-arrivals at the beginning of the season due to weather, said Ivan Watson, media relations officer at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.
The cruise ship season in Victoria ends today.
Carter said the current goal is to increase the length of stay for cruise ship passengers, and encouraging them to return to Victoria in the future.
“We’d like to find a way if we can make the stays longer for the cruise ships,” Carter said.
Nursey said although the stays are short, once visitors come to Victoria, they are highly likely to return.
“The challenge is getting people to come the first time,” he said.
However, not everyone is happy with the way the cruise ship industry is currently being operated in Victoria.
“The advisory level for emissions was exceeded several times this year,” said Marg Gardiner, president of the James bay Neighbourhood Association.
Gardiner said buses transporting cruise ship passengers in the city cause high traffic volumes, noise levels and high emissions.
She does not believe the economic impact from the cruise ships is necessarily a benefit.
“If you want to get a benefit you have to net costs,” she said. “You have to offset the economic impacts with the social and environmental costs. When you look at an impact without looking at the environmental or social cost, you are not being very forthright in declaring your full impact on a community.”