Vancouver Recruits Cruise Lines

A newly-formed cruise consortium – Cruise Industry Association of British Columbia (CIABC) – has developed a five-year marketing program it hopes will boost passenger arrivals at a rate of 20 to 30 percent annually, and increase the cruise industry’s economic impact on British Columbia to $1 billion dollars, according to Peter Fraser, CIABC’s executive director.

Fraser said that the impact of EXPO ’86 – a record 325,000 cruise passengers generating an additional $300 million for the province – made tourism officials aware of how significantly the cruise industry could impact a region, and how underdeveloped British Columbia is in this area.

British Columbia has not properly marketed itself to the cruise industry,” Fraser said. “Even during our record season, Vancouver only averaged one-and-a-half ship calls a day, and we can handle at least five. There hasn’t been one new ship slated to call here since 1984, and studies showed we will only get about 10 percent of the total cruise market in 1987. Alaska may be saturated with ships, but there are plenty of facilities and ports that are underutilized on the Canadian side.”

To rectify the situation, the CIABC was formed and charged with the task of expanding the cruise industry into B.C. waters. Its five-year plan aims to: increase the number of calls to Vancouver (from 241 in 1986); expand cruising in British Columbia beyond Victoria and Prince Rupert, to four or five new ports; fully exploit the region’s maritime services and facilities; extend the seasons; attract more pocket cruisers and introduce mini­ cruises on the Canadian side of the Inside Passage; and make travel agents more aware of the pre- and post-cruise opportunities available, Fraser said.

Port Hardy, Kitimat, Port Squamash, Nanaimo, and Queen Charlotte Islands are the key destinations being promoted.

Port Hardy, a small village of 6,000 residents was discovered last season by Sitmar, which brought in about 11,000 passengers during nine four-hour calls. According to Fraser, the passengers spent about $40 each during their stay.

The rest of the ports have yet to be explored by the cruise industry, even though they have the facilities to accommodate the vessels, according to Fraser. He also said that they offer opportunities for unique land excursions, including visits to authentic Indian reservations, the Canadian Rockies, summer skiing, and unusual wildlife and vegetation exploration.

In addition to luring cruise lines to these destinations, CIABC is charged with heightening awareness of the area’s maritime facilities.

“More than seventy percent of the trucks that service the cruise lines come from the United States. We want to get that business,” Fraser said. “Right now, operators are flying in their flowers from Holland, when some of the most unusual flowers are grown right here in Fraser Valley. And others are bringing their beef in from Kansas City when they can get better from Western Canada.” British Columbia’s dry-docking and bunkering facilities; and extensive rail, bus and tour operator services also are being heavily promoted.

$1 Million Marketing Budget

To undertake this campaign, the consortium has a $1 million marketing budget, funded by a variety of private, federal, provincial and civic sources. Bud Coles, owner of Maverick Coach Lines and a member of CIABC’s advisory board, committed one dollar for each passenger Vancouver attracted in 1986, and the Bill Reid, Minister of Tourism, made a commitment to match whatever funds the private sector raises.

More Air Service Key Goal

CIABC delegates already have met with more than 18 cruise line executives, and although no cruise lines have made any commitment, yet, Fraser reports that the delegation has received good feedback. The only problem cited has been the lack of airlift available into the area – a situation the consortium expects to improve in the near future.

“Delta has just acquired the rights to Western, which will give us air service to Vancouver from the southern part of the U.S., and we have a lot of lift from California. In addition, the general manager of the Vancouver Air Authority, the chairman of the Ports of Canada, the president of Canadian Pacific Airlines, and the director of the Vancouver Port of Trade are members of the CIABC advisory board,” Fraser said.

Other promotional activities already under­ taken by the CIABC include a joint advertorial with Travel Trade, Winter Cruise-A-Thon and CLIA, and several trade show appearances. CIABC also plans to host an annual cruise trade show in Vancouver, and has made a bid to host the 1988 Cruise-A-Thon.

Chapters of the organization are being set up in Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte, Kitimat, Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Hary and Port Squamish.

According to Fraser, CIABC hopes to see two or three lines by the 1989 season.

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