Friday, January 30, 2009

Sailing towards a BC oriented cruise industry

A professor from St. John, Newfoundland's Memorial University, has cast his eyes on the western horizon and offered up a few suggestions for British Columbians in their quest to wrestle some of those Alaska bound cruise lines away from above the 54 40.

Dr. Ross Klein provided some input (some of it apparently not quite received well) to local and provincial cruise authorities on how to best position British Columbia in the competitive cruise ship industry.

The main talking point of his examination is that British Columbia should develop a coast long approach to the tourism potential, making BC ports the destination ports rather than just the stop along the way to Ketchikan, Anchorage and beyond.

His thoughts were outlined in a front page, headline story in Thursday’s Daily News.

B.C. ports should be working together, not in competition says university professor
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Pages one and two

An expert on the cruise industry believes that Prince Rupert - and B.C. - could benefit greatly from a more cooperative approach to attracting cruise port -of-calls.

Memorial University of Newfoundland's Dr Ross Klein, an author of four books on the sailing tourism industry, said working together is the best way for Rupertites to get the most from the cruise industry.

"The Prince Rupert Port Authority and the City of Prince Rupert need to think about what they want to create and what they want the cruise ship industry to create for them," said Klein.

Last summer, Prince Rupert lost its Wednesday port -of-call to Victoria after Royal Caribbean announced it was taking its Rhapsody of the Seas there for 2009. While the PRPA remained quiet on the issue during the summer while in discussions with Royal Caribbean, locals reacted by wondering if there was still value in cruise activity.

Klein argued that the reason people are concerned about "value" is because of the relatively little value passengers bring to the stops they visit. The trouble, he said, was in the way the industry currently operates.

Right now, most cruise lines only make one port-of-call in B.C. on their long voyages from Seattle to points north in Alaska. They do that because the U.S. portage laws are such that if a ship leaves the U.S. coast and then returns, it must make at least one stop at a foreign port.

To Klein, the potential to make serious economic gains are there but unless provincial players recognize how to get to the point of a cohesive, comprehensive plan of business then it won't ever realize the true value.

"People aren't spending money in stores, the shore excursion is kicking back too much money to the cruise' industry and the focus, right now, isn’t really on generating income," said Klein.

He advised that the port industry in the province should place a common $20 port fee on each passenger that comes to any provincial stop and avoid undercutting each other on costs and benefits, such as the free waste disposal service that is offered in Rupert.

He also suggested that the port industry offer a British Columbia specific itinerary, meaning the industry itself would have to come up with a reason for foreign and national tourists picking a visit to the West Coast of Canada, rather than the State of Alaska.

It's all about exploring what the cruise passengers want and presenting that to the cruise companies both in a way that is sellable to passengers and that also provides a reasonable income for the cruise lines.

"For the cruise lines, it's economics they want to make money but the cruise ports also want to make money."

When asked about Klein's idea, Cruise BC Association administrator Jane McIvor said she questioned Klein's background with regards to the cruise industry, but said that the local players are working together to get something finalized.

"He's never contacted this association," said Mclvor.

"Our organization has been around since 2004 and we provide workshops with industry stakeholders, trying to provide leadership to destinations that currently do not have cruise stops."

Prince Rupert port Authority's Cruise development Officer Phil Westoby said that the cruise industry in B.C. has been working on delivering a B.C. specific itinerary since 2002 and while none of the work has come to fruition, he said that is quite normal given that it took Alaska 30-to-40 years to develop its cruise package.

"Building any cruise ship theatre takes a large period of time and with great difficulty, though they have had success in the past with a Pacific Northwest cruise theatre," said Westoby.

"It's not something we can do overnight."

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