Canada has extended its current ban on cruise ships until February 2022, ending Alaska’s cruise season and dealing a severe blow to the state’s economy. The decision also means the cancellation of the most popular Foliage Fall cruises, which travel to northern Canada and New England each fall.

Sitka, Alaska

It is the right and responsible thing to do.

Omar Algabra, Canada’s transportation minister, defended the measure, saying the government is working to keep Canada’s transportation system safe. Temporary bans on cruise ships and pleasure craft are essential to continue protecting the most vulnerable and not to overburden our health systems. It’s doing the right thing and the responsible thing.

READ MORE: After the pandemic, Alaska will again welcome cruise passengers.

If there is a positive note at all, it is that the notice indicates that the Secretary of Transportation has the option to withdraw temporary orders if the global health crisis improves to the point where this activity can be resumed.

Why does Canada play such an important role in projects for the cruise industry? The Jones Act provision requires a ship leaving a U.S. port to call at a foreign port before returning home. Therefore, cruises to Alaska have been meeting this requirement for many years by making a stop in Canada. Similarly, tours of ports like New York and Boston include ports like Halifax in their itineraries.

A row of shops on Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska (Photo courtesy of Holland America).

Cruise sector response

In a statement, Cruise Lines International said it understands the reason for the change. At the same time, they added, we are surprised at the length of the extension of the regulation.

The CLIA statement also points out that two years without swimming in Canada would have potentially irreversible consequences for families across the country. We are prepared to work with Canadian health and transportation authorities to move forward.

Meanwhile, the impact of this decision on Alaska’s economy cannot be overstated. Cities like Juneau and Ketchikan are visited by more than a million tourists each year, nearly 95% of them on cruise ships.

According to a study on the impact of the shutdown on Alaska, it was reported that the cruise industry was responsible for more than $1.24 billion in direct costs in Alaska in 2018. The total employment impact was 22,447 jobs and over $1.5 billion.

(Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Organization)

Juneau city manager Rory Watt had hoped for better news. As he told a local news agency: Three months ago we thought we would see ships in May. A month ago we said we might see them in June, two weeks ago we said we might see them in July, and last week we thought we might see them in August.

While this is another hurdle that cruise lines must overcome, it is not as devastating to the industry as it is to cities that are not receiving much-needed tourism money. As Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said on a conference call with investors in 2020: A very good feature of a cruise ship is that, unlike a hotel, we are not tied to one place. If for some reason a port is not available to us, we have the option of going elsewhere.

READ MORE: Alaska Inside Passage Cruises: What you need to know.

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