Ferry cuts cause cancellations

The decision to cease operation of the Discovery Coast Connector’s Queen of Chilliwack causes cancellations for tourism operators.

The decision to cease operation of the Discovery Coast Connector’s Queen of Chilliwack has resulted in significant cancellations for tourism operators, said Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association CEO Amy Thacker.

“I’ve only heard the tip of it, I’ve been speaking to operators, but they are feeling it really really hard,” she told the Weekend/Advisor.

Clearwater Lake Lodge and Resort owner Bernward Kalbhenn said Thursday his reservations are 10 per cent of what they would normally be at this time of the year.

Ninety-five per cent of his clients are from Europe and by now he would normally have 800 to 900 nights worth of reservations booked.

“I just returned from Europe two weeks ago and they are laughing at B.C. about the ferry situation,” Kalbenn said.

Earlier this month, Thacker and other representatives from the region met with three cabinet ministers in Victoria to offer some solutions, but were told afterwards the direct route would not be reinstated and that the Nimpkish ferry is the solution.

After the meeting Minister Todd Stone told the Weekend Advisor he and the others appreciated the face-to-face frank discussion.

He also said the government recognizes the importance of ferry service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola.

“We are committed to working with the tourism industry to ensure the long-term success of the Discovery Coast Circle Tour as well as the other ferry routes that showcase B.C.’s west coast from Port Hardy, up the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert and over to Haida Gwaii.”

By the end of March, BC Ferries will announce its new schedule and rate fare structure so there will be more information for tourism operators to plan ahead, Thacker said.

BC Ferries has promised that room will be made so the Nimpkish can accommodate up to four RVs, but from a tourism perspective that isn’t a solution, she added.

“All our international tourism operators that sell that circle route are cancelling, those are the challenges our businesses are facing.”

In response, CCCTA is working with tour operators and Destination BC to try and create new itineraries that do not rely on the ferry to bring tourists to the region.

Meanwhile, Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett has arranged a meeting with the CCCTA board on March 28 in Victoria with Minister of State for Small Business Naomi Yamamoto.

“At the meeting we will discuss any mitigation and moving forward steps that may be possible,” Thacker explained.

Yamamoto has also promised to meet with stakeholders in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Bella Coola area as well, but no date has been determined yet.

The ferry cancellation is the biggest challenge Thacker has faced while at the helm as CEO, but said people aren’t giving up.

“There are some amazingly strong pioneers in this region that I have faith will continue to have their voices heard and make the business case,” she said.

“We’re not done and we’re not giving up.”