News of another full year without cruise ships is the latest in a series of blows to Prince Edward Island's tourism industry and will leave many Island businesses at risk, says the CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I.
Thursday, the federal transport minister said the current ban on cruise ships carrying more than 100 passengers will remain in effect until February 2022.
"We understand why Transport Canada made the decision, we respect that, but I think it really highlights the devastation we've seen to the tourism industry and this is another really big blow for another year," said TIAPEI CEO Corryn Clemence.
Although the industry was expecting the news, Clemence said she was hoping perhaps for some ships to be permitted by the fall.
The port had record numbers in 2019 with more ships than ever and almost $23 million in direct impact, she said. The industry was expecting 2020 to be even better, with expected revenues of $27 million — then COVID-19 hit.
'Put them on hold'
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown says reductions in tourist traffic have hit local businesses hard, and the extended ban on cruise ships could influence the city's upcoming budget discussions, since the municipality's tax revenues are being affected.
"We are noticing businesses are not reopening, or they are closing for an extended period of time," Brown said.
"It will affect the budget, and that means we have to look at what are our priorities and expenditures? Maybe we can't do all the projects that we looked at in a five-year or 10-year plan, we have to put them on hold."
Patricia MacLean recently expanded her potato fudge and sea glass business from Souris to Founders' Hall on the Charlottetown waterfront, right by the cruise ship port. She was expecting 1,000 people a day to come through the shops and restaurants there this summer.
"I had a gut feeling that maybe it would happen, I was hoping it wouldn't," MacLean said of the cancellation of the 2021 cruise season. "We have to move forward and make the best of it."
She hopes Islanders will continue to shop local, as they have been the last few months.
"I'm going to give it my all," she said. "It's kind of scary, this COVID, but maybe it will keep it away from this little Island ... next year will be a booming year."
Pushing for more supports
Clemence said many businesses that struggled to make it through last year will need additional supports to stay viable through a second summer of uncertainty, including motor coaches that toured cruise ship passengers, as well as restaurants and retail stores.
She noted the federal COVID-19 wage subsidy has been guaranteed until June, but said it should be extended into the fall and potentially further.
"This isn't going away, the situation for our industry," she said. "So we'll continue to push for supports, definitely."
The federal Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program, or HASCAP, also launched this week. It's intended to help businesses hardest hit by the pandemic by offering loans of $25,000 to $1 million.
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