Victoria expects to see some extra cruise ships this year as at least on cruise line pulls anchor from Asia to bypass the epicentre of COVID-19, formerly called coronavirus.
Celebrity Cruises typically doesn’t start its Pacific routes – between California and Alaska with a stop in Victoria – until late May or Early June. This year, however, the line has cancelled its Asia route and is already scheduled its ship, the Celebrity Millennium, to appear in Victoria as of April 23.
“Due to the coronavirus that organization is choosing to leave early,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), adding that preparing the ship for a new part of the world isn’t novel, even in light of illness. “From an industry perspective having this kind of breakout, like Norwalk virus, isn’t new. They have a lot of experience in how to clean the ship.”
The additional four calls from Celebrity Cruises to Victoria are likely to welcome between 12,000-15,000 extra passengers to the shore, a jump to an already anticipated record-breaking year for cruise line passengers.
Destination Greater Victoria is also anticipating a strong year for tourism numbers, with CEO Paul Nursey saying that visitors from Asia make up less than six per cent of visitors, with Chinese visitors only making up three per cent.
“Our bread and butter is regional visitors,” Nursey said.
The majority of tourists come from other parts of B.C., closely followed by Washington state, Alberta, Ontario and California.
Nursey added that in cases of breakouts in the past, such as SARS, the tourism industry typically bounces back quickly – within six to eight months.
This year, however, Destination Greater Victoria is expecting a high visitor rate due to some record numbers.
“We already have a record conference year and record sports year already contracted, so we think any business impact will be modest,” he said.
Large sports events this year include the Pan Am Cross Country Cup, set to take place at Bear Mountain on Feb. 29 and the FIBA Olympic qualifying basketball tournament from June 23-28.
The extra cruise ship passengers will also help bolster tourist numbers, Nursey said.
“We can’t be naive to say there’s no impact, but we’re seeing some positive impacts too.”