Friday’s announcement by Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau isn’t what Quebec cruise ship operators were hoping for.
Passenger ships with overnight accommodations and a capacity of more than 100 people will be prohibited from operating in Canada until at least November, Garneau said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained the move is an extension of a decision made in March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic to protect the country’s coastal communities.
Peak cruise ship season in Quebec is September and October.
And while Friday’s news didn’t come as complete surprise to cruise ship operators, some expressed their disappointment.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a disaster, but it’s close to that word,” said René Trépanier, Croisières du Saint-Laurent director general.
“We were expecting the best season ever in the Saint-Lawrence.
Quebec’s cruise industry has grown significantly in the last 15 years, according to Trépanier who says it has gone from 100,000 passengers a day to 500,000.
The industry he says generates $1 billion in economic benefits for the province and 7,000 jobs.
“The cruise industry for the province of Quebec is quite widespread and it has a major economic impact for hundreds of small entrepreneurs and different types of businesses,” he said.
Mario Girard, president and chief executive officer of Quebec City’s port authority also expressed his concern.
“In this never before seen global context of a pandemic, we understand the reasons to cancel overnight cruises,” he said.
“However, I cannot help but think of the entrepreneurs who see all possibility of earning revenue evaporate with this announcement.”
Friday’s announcement came with a sliver of good news.
Smaller cruise ships with fewer than 100 people as well as day cruises may be able to operate after July 1.
“It will be provincial, territorial, local and regional health authority requirements that will determine the timelines and conditions of resuming operations,” Garneau said.
This could allow some tourism activities, like whale watching excursions, to take place.
Trépanier is convinced when they are allowed, passengers will return.
“This industry … has a lot of resilience and it will come back,” he said.
— With files from Global’s Annabelle Olivier