Vancouver expecting a record 331 cruise ship visits in 2023

 Monday, March 20, 2023 


The arrival of Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess at the Canada Place cruise terminal on April 12 will be symbolic of a hoped-for continuation of tourism’s rebound in Vancouver.

It will be the first of what the Port of Vancouver expects to be a record 331 cruise ship visits to the city in the 2023 season, which, if the cruise lines can fill them, will bring a record number of passengers.

Last year’s return of cruise ships to Vancouver — there were 307 visits — was a “comeback story” for a valued industry that supports many regional tourism and hospitality businesses, said Mandy Chan, manager of cruise services for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which oversees the Port of Vancouver.

Chan said based on their schedule, it looks like this season will be even more impressive.

Eight per cent more cruise ship visits are expected, with the potential to carry a record 1.3 million passengers, if the cruises sell out.

That chock-a-block cruise schedule, combined with 28 major conventions booked for Vancouver in 2023 and strong early bookings by leisure travellers has Destination Vancouver CEO Royce Chwin hopeful.

Travel restrictions, including a ban on cruise ships landing in Canada at the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 that lasted until near the end of 2022, made tourism among the hardest-hit sectors of the economy and one of the slowest to come back.

Before the pandemic, tourism officials estimated that Vancouver’s cruise sector accounted for about $2.2 billion of Metro Vancouver’s $15-billion-a-year tourism economy.

Passenger statistics collected by YVR indicate a rebound of travel is getting close to pre-pandemic numbers. In January, the airport welcomed 1.8 million passengers, more than double the number in January 2022, and just 11 per cent less than their last pre-pandemic January, in 2020.

In the last six months of 2022, the 11.4 million passengers that passed through YVR were just 17 per cent lower than the 13.7 million that arrived in the last six months of 2019.

For 2022, Chwin said it is helpful to Destination Vancouver that Time magazine named Vancouver as one of two Canadian destinations, along with Churchill, Manitoba, on its list of world’s greatest places to visit in 2023.

At the Vancouver Convention Centre, staff are busy adding up the numbers from a near-record Pacific Dental Conference, said Claire Smith, vice-president of marketing.

That organization’s last conference in 2020 became infamous as one of B.C.’s superspreader events at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Smith said its return represents one of the biggest gatherings we’ve had since COVID.

The Vancouver Convention Centre measures its performance in the economic impact of delegate spending on hotels and other services.

For fiscal 2022-23 ending this month, B.C. Pavilion Corp., the Crown corporation that runs the facility, estimated that impact will hit $410 million compared with $450 million to $550 million pre-pandemic.

Smith said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of conventions, with organizers arranging more remote options for attendance, but it doesn’t seem to have scared delegates off.

She said attendance is better for events by groups that are based closer to Vancouver. Those that are farther away have been slower to recover attendance, but “I don’t think an online option is cannibalizing the attendance of a meeting.”

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