The season of tourists has arrived, with the first cruise ship sailing into the harbour on Friday with more than 680 passengers aboard.
The Oceania Regatta is just the first of 23 cruise ships scheduled to dock at Northland Terminal from May 19 until October 1. This year, the Port of Prince Rupert anticipates 17,000 cruise ship passengers flooding Cow Bay and city streets.
The passenger numbers have more than doubled from last year due to strategic business planning between Tourism Prince Rupert and the port authority. The cruise working group examined opportunities to reinvigorate the industry, and already there are early signs of success.
“I’m certain we won’t see 100,000 passengers again unless we see a significant increase in our tour capacity,” said Scott Farwell, chair of Tourism Prince Rupert, during his presentation on the 2017 tourist season to the Rotary Club on Thursday, May 18.
Rather than focus on drawing larger ships packed with 1,000-plus passengers, the strategy is to appeal to smaller vessels and luxury lines.
Prince Rupert’s shore excursions are its selling point, and currently the capacity maxes out at approximately 600-700 tourists.
This year there are new tour products available, with wildlife walking tours around Butze Rapids Trail and historical tours offered at the North Pacific Cannery. Increasing tour capacity doesn’t only benefit the cruise industry.
“It helps develop that infrastructure we can use on non-cruise days,” Farwell said.
Another new strategy for the season will be introducing the Mobile Street Team on festival days and cruise ship days. Visitor information staff will be on bikes, in trailers, tents with iPads to provide information to tourists in and around the city.
The Mobile Street Team was out on their bikes for the first cruise day.
The volunteer Cruise Ambassador Program were also on duty to inform the passengers about the community.
Construction crews halted their work on the Atlin Terminal parking for cruise day, making Cow Bay a little less dusty and noisy for tourists to browse the shops.
While targeting smaller cruises won’t bring the yesteryear of 100,000 cruise passengers to the harbour, the new strategy is already showing it’s effective in drawing ships back to the coast after the industry deflated following the 2008 U.S. recession.