The federal government’s ban on international cruise ships has been lifted, giving some hope to residents of Canadian cities whose economies depend on tourism.
The pandemic-related restriction ended Nov. 1 and opened the doors to a busy season next year – even though Ottawa still advises Canadians not to go on a cruise themselves.
“Bookings for cruises have already begun and we can see that reservations are very strong for next year,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbor Authority.
“We look forward to working with Transport Canada and the Canadian Public Health Agency to confirm the vaccination requirements that will be in place for all passengers.”
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British Columbia is the center of cruise travel in Canada and accounts for about 50 percent of all cruise traffic, according to a report from Destination BC.
The cruise industry pumped about $ 130 million a year into the Victoria region before the pandemic and employed about 800 people, the Greater Victoria Harbor Authority adds.
However, the success of the BC capital’s cruise season in 2022 may be affected by a US bill that, if enacted, will allow cruise ships to permanently skip ports in BC.
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As it stands, the U.S. Passenger Vesels Services Act requires large foreign-flagged passenger ships to stop at a foreign port between U.S. port stops.
For years, it forced cruise ship companies to either start in Vancouver or stop in Victoria on their way from Seattle to Alaska.
Last summer, however, President Joe Biden signed a temporary exemption from the law that would stand as long as Canadian waters remained closed.
The bill, recently introduced by Alaska Congressman Don Young, would in effect extend that policy.
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On Tuesday, BC’s Transport and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming said his department “keeps an eye on it”, even though the president’s exemption was lifted in line with Canada’s cruise ban.
“The premiere has informed the Prime Minister a number of times, including right after the election, about (how) important this is for BC – that we build better back with our American friends based on the status quo,” Fleming told Global News.
“It seems that just by sending the signal that Canada is open for business, Alaska and BC will get a huge advantage.”
Fleming said cruises to and from Alaska are “enhanced by the two-country” experience, and BC has supported the growth of Alaska’s cruise industry.
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Barry Penner, legal adviser to the Cruise Lines International Association in Canada, said Canada can not prevent that legislation from moving forward, but can help by clarifying its own cruise rules.
Details are missing from Ottawa’s new travel guidelines, he said, including what rules will be in place for ships and passengers returning from the United States
“If you want to take the wind out of the Alaska lawmakers’ sails of pushing this legislation, probably the best thing Canada can do is bring more assurance that cruise ships and passengers can get back here by delivering the rules now,” Penner explained. .
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The Canadian government still advises Canadians not to be passengers on international cruise ships.
Should a COVID-19 outbreak occur on a ship outside Canada, it is “unlikely” that there would be a government-organized return flight home, its updated guidelines say.
“You may be subject to quarantine procedures on board the ship or in a foreign country,” they read.
“The range of consular services available to them on cruise ships can be significantly limited by local authorities, especially in quarantine situations.”
Penner said his organization is trying to work with the federal government to “build bridges” regardless of the information gap that has prompted Canada to simultaneously welcome international cruise ships but discourage Canadians from traveling on them.
With files by Claire Fenton and Richard Zussman
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