The Halifax Port Authority says it’s anticipated that the lack of cruise ships in Halifax as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a revenue loss of between $165 million and $170 million.
Lane Farguson with the port authority says that includes the passenger spend portion, as well as how much is charged to vessels arriving and vessel provisioning.
“Normally this (time of the year) would be peak cruise season,” said Farguson. “Unfortunately, that is not the case this year and we all know the reasons for it.”
In the winter, the port was preparing to welcome 7,000 to 10,000 guests from cruise ships on three to five vessels, resulting in a steady stream of people in Halifax and surrounding communities.
“It’s a different year, it’s unfortunate, and certainly our hearts go out to the people that have come to rely on the cruise industry as part of their overall business structure,” Farguson said.
Though they’re not directly impacted by the lack of cruise ships, local hotels are still feeling the pinch.
David Clark, general manager of the Atlantica Hotel, says any other October they would be running at an occupancy of 80 to 85 per cent.
This year, that figure is sitting at around 23 to 25 per cent.
“We were coming up to 35 and 40 per cent in September. It’s hard to believe we were getting excited about a 40 per cent occupancy, but that’s where it was,” said Clark. “It looks like it’s going to be slower as we move into the later months of the year.”
With property taxes due this week, Clarke expects several hotels will close for extended periods of time.
“We just can’t maintain these levels for long periods over the next six months,” he said. “Most hotels probably didn’t generate enough revenue to pay those (property) taxes that were due on Oct. 1.”
Shawn Lewis, the food and beverage manager at Gio beside the Prince George Hotel, says they’ll face unprecedented challenges this winter.
“I’ve been in the business for almost 32 years; I have never seen anything like this,” said Lewis.
“Never has there been a time for restaurants and businesses to be more transparent and honest. Normally we’d say, ‘Everything’s great, we’re succeeding, and this is why you should come here.’ Now we’re saying, ‘If you’ve loved us, we need to come here.'”
Lewis says the restaurant has reopened with limited capacity and staff in order to maintain COVID-19 preventive protocols. He says in order to help other local businesses out, they’re thinking local.
“We’ve rewritten our menu with a base of let’s keep it local, let’s keep this Atlantic bubble going in everything we do,” he said.