The Victoria cruise ship season officially gets under way today. This year 230 ships carrying more than 513

The Victoria cruise ship season officially gets under way today. This year 230 ships carrying more than 513

Victoria expects record cruise ship season

First ship of season docks at Ogden Point this morning

A record number of cruise ships will be coming to Victoria this season and they will be staying longer, says the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Two-hundred-and-thirty ships carrying more than 513,000 passengers and crew are expected between today (April 22) and Nov. 9.

That’s up from 2012 (the last record year) when there were 224 port calls, with 504,000 passengers.

The first ship to visit is the Grand Princess when it docks at Ogden Point this morning.

Sonterra Ross, chief operating officer of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said ships will stay longer in port this year, with the average visit seven hours. The shortest call is five hours, the longest 14.

“This represents a 17 per cent increase over daytime calls in 2014,” she said. “It means ship passengers and crew will stay in the area longer helping local businesses.”

Each Victoria cruise call is worth $500,000 to the region’s economy, Ross said. This is a combination of supplying the vessels money that travellers and the ship’s crew spend here. Over the course of the season it amounts to more than $32 million.

It’s good news for the tourism industry, too, said Paul Nursey, president and CEO of Tourism Victoria.

Research has shown that more than 70 per cent of first time visitors to Canada will return in two years.

It puts a challenge to local tourism officials and operators.

“People sometimes forget that we have tooth and nail competition. It’s really important that we invite visitors back,” Nursey said.

Tourism Victoria will begin a program this year enticing cruise passengers back.

“We are introducing 500,000 people to our destination, and we need to engage the community,” Nursey said.

Over the past decade, cruise ship calls have more than doubled and passenger numbers have more than tripled.

Due to the cruise ships making Victoria a port of call, the GVHA has been able to invest $23.8 million in capital projects to improve all its facilities, including $13.4 million in direct improvements at Ogden Point.