Ian Robertson on the cruise ship comeback

Ian Robertson
Ian Robertson, CEO of the GVHA. Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet.

Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, was “really proud of how the entire business community came together” to lobby for the cruise industry’s return. Stakeholders in Greater Victoria acted fast in support of reopening — within just 72 hours, 13 mayors and leaders of two Nations signed a letter calling on the federal government to revise the order.

Transport Canada’s decision to allow cruise ships back in its waters is welcome news for the many jobs and businesses that rely on the industry whose previous annual contribution to the regional economy was over $130 million. Over the last six years, as head of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Robertson has watched local businesses establish high-ranking reputations as an integral part of the City.

“Passengers love their time here in Victoria and they’re very complimentary on how they’re made to feel here,” he says.

What does the change really mean?

What it means for the cruise lines is that they can begin to plan their itineraries with some certainty. They need time to prepare, and it gives them that time. It also helps provide some certainty for the literally thousands of companies in Greater Victoria that are involved, either directly or indirectly, in cruise operations.

What sectors benefit the most?

There are numerous sectors that benefit economically, that’s very clear: tour operators; retail stores; restaurants and bars; and then the crews, jobs for the longshore workers, tug operators, marine pilots.

But there are other benefits from the activity and interaction passengers bring. I was talking to a restaurant operator in downtown Victoria, who said to me, “You know, I really miss the cruise passengers. I miss the vibrancy that the cruise passengers bring to my community’.”

The loss is more than just economic.

How can small companies encourage and capture business when it does return?

To contribute to the passengers’ experience, I would say we must continue to be great hosts, welcoming visitors back when that first ship comes in next year.

The cruise passengers are excited to experience the places that locals love, and would love to share. So whether it’s talking to a store owner, small business, or someone on the street, they always talk about the amazing experiences they have here.