With the first of three cruise ship visits to Port Alberni now over, the Port Alberni Port Authority is looking into its crystal ball. And the future for a budding cruise ship industry in the Alberni Valley is looking bright.
“We’ve got a reputation within the industry with providing a willing and enthusiastic welcome,” says David McCormick, PAPA director of public relations and business development.
Something that helped solidify that reputation was a capacity-building workshop offered to community members in January. The City of Port Alberni had budgeted for the workshop, and Aquilla Cruise Excellence from St. John, New Brunswick facilitated it.
“We hosted them here in Port Alberni at the end of January for three and a half days—two and a half days of a capacity-building workshop (and a tour of the facility).”
“‘Impressed’ was not a strong enough word for how they felt about our operation here,” McCormick said.
Thirty people signed up for the workshop and continue to be engaged in the process. Aquilla representatives were impressed with the diversity of community members who participated in the workshop.
Aquilla Cruise Excellence is the same company that cruise ship companies often call upon for consultation, he added.
“It was a prudent move…to engage them,” McCormick said. The community festival idea grew from an idea presented at that workshop, he added.
Past cruise ship visits to Alberni’s harbour have been repositioning cruises in the off-season. This one is part of a 21-day Ultimate Alaska and Pacific Northwest Adventurer excursion. It’s also the reason there will be three visits in as many months.
“To have three in successive months is an excellent opportunity to observe and implement the lessons and any improvements we need to do,” McCormick said.
Having three already booked has given PAPA the confidence to look to the future as far as cruise ship business for Port Alberni’s deep sea port. “Our long-term vision is to continue to work with the community to grow business and the local economy, and to contribute to the local economy,” he said.
PAPA has been in discussions with the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce and Alberni Valley Tourism about having a dedicated manager to lead cruise development in the city.
“In order to be successful long term we need a person dedicated to working with the community,” he said. He envisions someone who would be able to attend cruise trade shows, develop relationships and liaise with cruise lines “and improve our offerings.
“We think we have a great opportunity here.”
Especially with a long-term funding solution such as a revised Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT), which the chamber is pushing for in Port Alberni. The MRDT could be used to pay for a person to look after tourism growth, including the cruise industry, he said.
The next cruise ship visit will be Saturday, June 15. Another festival is already in the works, and the community arts council’s Solstice Fest is also happening that weekend.
The third cruise ship visit for 2019 takes place on Saturday, July 6.