This week the Prince Rupert Port Authority took a look back at the 2011 cruise season and spoke about what the future holds for cruise in Prince Rupert.
According to vice-president of marketing and business development Shaun Stevenson, 2011 was a year that saw the community come together to really showcase what Prince Rupert has to offer.
“We saw a tremendous number of positive initiatives that have not gone unnoticed by the cruise industry. We also saw a realigning of interests of the community and different community groups, and we saw a great foundation built moving forward,” he said.
“No one single entity can run cruise, it takes all sectors and the impact touches on all sectors…It takes a great alignment of interests for a community the size of Prince Rupert to pull off a cruise operation. We’re not a Vancouver where people come off the ship and can just get enveloped into the city.”
And Stevenson said the biggest area that needed work is for the independent guests, those who do not book a shore excursion but rather spend their time exploring Prince Rupert. With things like street vendors, a kids fishing derby, the Atlin Market, cruise ambassadors, carving near Northland Terminal and more, Stevenson said a lot has been done to address those gaps. He said that the reaction from cruise lines they spoke to have been very positive and there was a marked increase in the amount of time passengers spent on shore compared to previous years.
But, he acknowledged that relying on volunteers for the cruise experience isn’t the way to go for the long-term future of the industry.
“That has to be a stop-gap, it’s not a sustainable way forward and you’re not going to operate a cruise destination for 10 years or so that way,” he said.
“What we look to do in the medium to long term is create destination tourism opportunities so businesses can do a lot of what the volunteers have done this year.”
Looking ahead Stevenson said there are a handful of large ships coming to Prince Rupert in 2012, including a stop by Holland America, but the focus now is getting a weekly ship returning in 2013.
“Those visits represent an opportunity to show what Prince Rupert has to offer,” he said.
However, cruise lines are expected to make their decision on the 2013 season by this spring as the schedule is out about 18 months before the season gets underway.
“Between now and March is really our opportunity to market Prince Rupert to the cruise lines for the 2013 season,” he said.
“We will be watching to see if the Alaskan cruise market expands and if not we will have to look at rerouting a ship from a current port of call to Prince Rupert…There is carrying capacity concerns at other ports where residents have said clearly that they don’t want 300,000 passengers or more coming into town because it is too much for them.”
And Stevenson said that while 2012 is a setback to the industry locally, the Prince Rupert Port Authority is still “extremely committed” to cruise in Prince Rupert.
“We still see Prince Rupert as a viable and desirable destination for the cruise industry.”