Cruise ships will be allowed back into Canadian waters sooner than expected, with the federal government announcing the ban will be lifted as of Nov. 1, 2021.
The federal minister of transport says the prohibition of cruise ships in Canadian waters will end at that time “if operators are able to fully comply with public health requirements.”
Cruise ship bans were first brought in last year, as COVID-19 case numbers rose and as many infections were reported on leisure vessels.
In February of this year, the federal government said its ban on cruise ships would be extended until Feb. 28, 2022. However, Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said on Thursday that progress made on the pandemic front means the government is able to look at easing some of these restrictions earlier.
“We will welcome cruise ships—an important part of our tourism sector—back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season,” he said.
According to the federal government, the cruise ship industry brings in more than $4 billion to the Canadian economy. It generates thousands of jobs across the country and plays an important role in tourism.
B.C.’s tourism economy is among those that are heavily reliant on the cruise ship industry.
“We know that cruise ship passengers want a Canadian experience in British Columbia, and we know that British Columbians want to welcome them to our cities when it is safe to do so,” said B.C. Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming.
After the crippling financial blows brought on by the pandemic, this comes as a relief, according to Vivek Sharma, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of B-C.
“There’s really no playbook through which anybody through which was working [with] in this pandemic,” Sharma acknowledged. “We’re just glad the government listened to the advocacy efforts of our organization and other partner organizations.”
Still, when asked if he thinks the government should have lifted the ban sooner, Sharma says it’s better late than never.
“I guess nothing is soon enough,” Sharma said when asked about the ban lifting in November. “But we also understand the government’s position and as an industry, we’ve always prioritized the health and safety of our community and the places we work with. I think there is still enough time to plan for next year, both for the cruise ship industry and for our partners and operators.”
Restrictions on cruise ships were first announced in March 2020. At the time, Ottawa announced that all cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers would not be allowed to dock in Canada.
About two months later, the federal government updated its order to include all vessels carrying 100 passengers or more.
But things have changed drastically over the past several months. Canada’s COVID-19 daily case counts are now trending in the right direction, as more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism industry across the country. Many groups have called for an easing of travel restrictions.
Many measures still remain, though some have been relaxed. Fully vaccinated travellers who are permitted entry into Canada no longer have to spend up to three days in a government-approved hotel, and do not have to spend two weeks in quarantine after flying in.
Recreational international travel is still not recommended.
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