Ban on cruise ships will have negative impact Island businesses, municipalities

The cruise ship Hamburg first came to Little Current as the Columbus. On its first vist, the vessel made its way through the Little Current Swing, but it was a tight fit. Since then, the ship has anchored out by Strawberry Lighthouse and tendered tourists in.

MANITOULIN – While it is understandable, a local stakeholder in the cruise ship industry says the Transport Canada ban of cruise ships in all Canadian waters until 2022 will have significant effects on local businesses, tourism and the local economy.

“My answer to that is that it will have a substantial effect on the tourism economy across Manitoulin Island,” stated Bruce O’Hare of Lakeshore Excursions, this past weekend. He noted that in a normal year, cruise ships will tie up in Little Current and “we take people off the ship to tour M’Chigeeng and the Ojibway Cultural Foundation, for example, and other areas on the Island. People come from Birch Island, Sagamok and we work with Wikwemikong Tourism and Luke Wassegig on all of this. (The ban) will have a big impact for us and our partners. What this means is that for the second year in a row we will not be able to provide our service and have ships docked here.” 

Mr. O’Hare noted that the Port of Little Current for example, will lose docking revenues, and businesses will lose revenues from the purchases made by people on the ships. 

The company also takes passengers on excursions to 10 Mile Point, the Manitoulin East Airport, kayaking in Kagawong, as well as excursions to the Cup and Saucer Trail. 

However, Mr. O’Hare acknowledged with the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting the entire world, “we expected it (decision by Transport Canada) and understand the decision.” The financial impact of the cruise ship industry to the Canadian economy is $8 billion dollars a year.

Transport Canada announced late last week that it was extending its sweeping ban on the cruise ship industry by continuing its order prohibiting cruise vessels in all Canadian waters until February 28, 2022. The orders, which were originally announced last spring and extended several times since, were announced by Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. The orders prohibit any cruise vessel carrying more than 100 or more people from operating in Canadian waters, effectively cancelling the 2021 season. 

The order also bans all adventure-seeking pleasure craft and passenger vessels from entering Canada’s Arctic waters.

The orders reiterated that the Government of Canada, “continues to advise Canadian citizens and permanent residents to avoid all travel on cruise ships outside Canada until further notice. As Canadians continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our government continues to work hard to ensure Canada’s transportation system remains safe,” said Minister of Transport Alghabra in a statement. “Temporary prohibitions to cruise vessels and pleasure craft are essential to continue to protect the most vulnerable among our communities and void overwhelming our health care systems. This is the right and responsible thing to do.”

Mr. O’Hare said customers who travel by ship to Manitoulin, “take away two things, merchandise and memories of Manitoulin Island, and they leave behind a lot of money and revenue for our businesses and communities.” 

“We support the decision made by Transport Canada and Health Canada but yes there will be a significant impact,” said Mr. O’Hare.  The ban was also in place in 2020.