COVID-19 expected to impact Maritime cruise season again in 2021

Click to play video 'COVID-19 to impact Maritime cruise season again in 2021' COVID-19 to impact Maritime cruise season again in 2021
WATCH: Cruise lines are among the many industries adversely impacted by COVID-19. Thousands of passengers have been visiting the Maritimes for many years as part of various itineraries. As Andrew Cromwell reports, businesses which benefit from cruise travel are preparing for another dry season.

Businesses that benefit from cruise travel in Canada’s Atlantic region are preparing for another dry season

Thousands of tourists didn’t materialize last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and although 2021 is still young, preparations are already being made for what could be another dry year cruise-wise.

“As I said last year we’re hoping for the best (and) planning for the worst,” said Jim Quinn, president and general manager of Port Saint John.

“We do have a schedule but I think you’re going to see that, like last year, that schedule will not be fully executed if at all.”

Read more: Maritime stakeholders keep an optimistic eye on 2021 cruise season

It was a sentiment echoed by Lane Farguson, a spokesperson with the Port of Halifax.

Story continues below advertisement

“In terms of fiscal planning, we are preparing for the possibility that we won’t see any cruise activity at all in Halifax for a second year in a row,” he said.

Bruce MacLeod has operated Pat’s Secret Garden and Land and Sea Apparel in the Saint John City Market for more than 20 years.

He knows as well as anyone the importance of cruise industry to tourism.

“It delivers to our door thousands of tourists every year, so we’ve learned over the years to accommodate those needs that people from out of town have,” said MacLeod.

Click to play video 'Word of a COVID-19 vaccine brings optimism to travel industry' Word of a COVID-19 vaccine brings optimism to travel industry
Word of a COVID-19 vaccine brings optimism to travel industry – Dec 13, 2020

Farguson says when you take into account the cruise-related business that takes place both on and off port property it results in a significant chunk of change.

Story continues below advertisement

“You put all of that together and it’s worth about $166 million each year in economic benefits,” he said.

There’s still activity going on at ports, besides cruise.

Saint John, for example, is in the midst of a $200 million expansion project.

“Saint Johners are going to see a complete change in the appearance of the west side of the port, the biggest change we’ve seen here in decades,” said Quinn.

READ MORE: Revenue loss from cruise ship suspension expected to reach over $165M, Halifax Port Authority says

Whenever cruise ships do return, officials say don’t expect business as usual.

“We expect to see bubbling that takes place so the cruise passengers that come off the vessel will more or less be confined to an extended bubble from the vessel on to those tours that they do take,” Farguson added

As for local merchants, they’re looking forward to travel restrictions to be eased.

“We can survive quite nicely if we have lots of people from other places in Canada,” said MacLeod.

An update on cruising in 2021 is expected in the next month or so.