Cruise ships bound for Alaska this summer might soon be bypassing B.C., that is until federal travel restrictions ease up in Canada.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill on May 13, The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, to allow ships to travel directly between the State of Washington and Alaska.
If signed into law by President Joe Biden, cruise ships will no longer be required to dock in Vancouver or Victoria, as previously required by the Passenger Vessel Services Act.
This means fewer tourists will be spending their money locally, with less of an impact on B.C.’s economy.
B.C. Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone says the cruise ship industry employed 20,000 people before the pandemic, and a large ship docking in Vancouver garners close to $3 million in economic activity.
In a statement emailed to Black Press Media, the province says the changes would be “automatically rescinded” when Canadian ports reopen.
“As soon as Canadian ports are ready to welcome cruise ships again, they will be required by U.S. law to stop here on their way to Alaska,” says the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.
B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong worries there’s no way to stop the Alaskan rule changes from becoming permanent.
In February, the federal government extended its ban on cruise ships until at least 2022, in wake of rising COVID-19 cases countrywide.
However, the province says there’s “hope” B.C.’s tourism sector may welcome cruise ships sooner, now that more than half of its eligible population is vaccinated.
Premier John Horgan plans to meet with Alaskan senators in the coming weeks to discuss the matter.
“We share a common desire with the people of Alaska to see a safe return to the cruise ship industry,” the province says.
“The tourism sector is eager to welcome visitors back when it’s safe to do so.”
Tickets are already on sale for trips to Alaska with Norwegian Cruise Lines.
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