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N.S. small businesses hopeful for regional travel bubble to help with loss of cruise season

Coronavirus outbreak: Halifax feeling economic hit of cruise ship season cancelling
The port city of Halifax city is feeling the hit of the cancellation, but that economic impact will extend throughout the region. Alexa MacLean has more.

The recent announcement that the 2020 cruise ship season for the Port of Halifax will be suspended due to the pandemic means millions of dollars in revenue will be lost, not only for the provincial economy but small businesses that rely on international visitors for a large proportion of their sales.

“International visitors would represent roughly about $15 million in revenue,” Dennis Campbell said, the CEO of the Ambassatours Gray Line tour company in Halifax.

The 2020 season was expected to be a record-setting year for the largest number of vessels on the schedule to visit Halifax.

“We were looking at 203 vessel calls, carrying 350,000 cruise guests,” Lane Farguson said, spokesperson for the Halifax Port Authority.

READ MORE: Halifax cruise season suspended due to coronavirus pandemic

The impact of cruise ship tourism is wide reaching for the provincial economy as a whole. Most guests depart in the early morning hours when their vessels dock and head out on excursions within a 1.5-hour range of the city, spending money as they go.

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“Places like Peggy’s Cove are very popular. Lunenburg as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Annapolis Valley has been really growing in popularity for wine tours. Plus, a lot of other guests will just take their own self-guided tours through Halifax,” Farguson said.

For visitors that opt to wander throughout the downtown core, small businesses reap the benefits.

One of those businesses is Garrison Brewing Company, directly across from the cruise ship terminals.

“They don’t show up, then that money’s not spent and that beer is not sold and that doesn’t come back,” Brian Titus said, the founder and president of Garrison Brewing. “So really what we have to do is kind of look at this as a year that’s not going to be a record year.

“We’re going to make money but we’re not going to make a lot. We’re going to be able to keep people employed, as we have been to this point.”

READ MORE: Large cruise ships banned from Canadian waters until Oct. 31

The loss of the cruise ship season has many small businesses now focused on the local community for support. The ultimate hope is that a regional travel bubble will be created with the Atlantic provinces, but that is all contingent on how effectively the spread of the COVID-19 virus is contained.

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“We’re hoping people will travel within that region and so we’ll meet some new friends, some Atlantic Canadians and that will be great. We’ll share a beer and it will be wonderful,” Titus said.

Regardless of whether Nova Scotia opens its borders to out of province guests, Campbell is confident the season will still be a success for local staycationers.

“This is still going to be something that we can have a half-decent season with our vessels on the water, and our Harbour Hopper and restaurants, and patios, and so on,” he said.