The Tourism season in Prince Rupert is about half way through and, so far, most businesses that rely on this time of year are either doing about the same as last year or worse. While none of the businesses the Prince Rupert Northern View talked to are being crippled financially, the fact remains that the first part of this tourist season has been slower than in previous years.
There a number of reasons business owners believe are the cause of this, some of the most concerning are the lack of a weekly cruise ship for the first time, and a sharp decline in traffic coming off of the ferries.
As you might expect the fact that Prince Rupert has only had four cruise ships this summer has been a big hit to the shops in Cow Bay. The Icehouse Art Gallery says that they’ve seen a noticeable drop in business this summer because of the fewer cruise passengers, but at the same time they’ve seen more locals and tourists from out of town coming in.
Other Cow Bay stores like the Seahorse Trading Company and Homework have also been stung by the cruise situation but say that their business is remaining steady. According to management, Seahorse is helped by the fact that they have a popular café and also partly by the fact that they are one of the only toy stores in town.
One interesting change has been that the cruise ship passengers who did come into the Cow Bay businesses are said to have been much friendlier than in past years. Whether or not this is because of the extra effort put into welcoming them at the waterfront is anyone’s guess.
Prince Rupert’s hospitality industry is a little more divided. The larger hotels like the Crest and the Prince Rupert Hotel says that their business is about the same as last year. The Prince Rupert Hotel for instance has about half of its rooms occupied at any given time. One of the reasons for this is that the Prince Rupert Hotel does a lot of business with tour companies.
Smaller places like hostels and bed and breakfasts’ are seeing more of a change in their business this year. The most noticeable difference for them is the drop off in ferry traffic. According to BC Ferries, the number of passengers coming to Prince Rupert in June was down almost 13 percent from last year and 7 percent in July.
Many of the owners of these businesses pointed the finger at ticket prices for driving passengers away.
The effect this has had differs from business to business. The Tides B&B says that in previous years they’ve had room booked months in advance, this year more of their business has been people calling looking for a place to stay last minute.
The hostel’s meanwhile have seen the number of backpackers coming through Prince Rupert evaporate. This has been particularly noticeable at the Pioneer Hostel, which markets itself specifically to backpackers. This hasn’t hurt the hostel as much as you might think, as they’ve seen their business made up for by a slightly older, more family oriented tourists.
Tourist attractions are still doing fairly well. Prince Rupert Adventure tours say that their business is doing well even without the cruise ship passengers because of the regular tourists coming.
The North Pacific Cannery has seen a slightly slower year as well. The cannery was found getting cruise passengers to go out there was a challenge. This year they’ve invested more marketing to road-trip tourists and bus charters, which they believe has paid off.
So while it has been a slower tourism season so far in many sectors of the tourism industry, the season is not been “terrible” as some online commenter’s have suggested. The head of Tourism Prince Rupert, Bruce Wishart, argued in one of his regular columns for this paper that Prince Rupert experiences what he calls “invisible tourism.” He says that many people don’t realize just how many tourists there are about because they blend into the community or are out on excursions.