On Sunday, when Holland America's Koningsdam pulled in at Port of Vancouver for the first time in two years, it didn’t just drop off thousands of visitors. It also delivered plenty of hope and relief for Richmond's tourism industry.
"We are excited as everyone in Downtown Vancouver," said Nancy Small, CEO of Tourism Richmond.
"Most of the cruisers will do add-on trips, and they might spend a day in Richmond or visit other places, such as Banff or Whistler."
According to the cruise line, the Koningsdam (which carries 2,650 passengers and 1,036 crew) was the first ship to cruise into Canada in 905 days, since the onset of the pandemic.
And this is just the beginning.
Five more Holland America Line ships will dock at Victoria and Vancouver throughout the year. It is anticipated that the six ships will bring approximately 140,000 guests to the Lower Mainland this year, said the company’s release.
Small recalled that a couple of years ago, she was approached by an elderly couple asking where they could get some authentic seafood -- while standing in the Gulf of Georgia Cannery's parking lot.
It turned out that the couple, who were on an Alaskan cruise, came to Richmond specifically after reading a New York Times article that said this is the city where venerable Asian cooking techniques meet some of the New World's best ingredients, said Small.
"They said they love Asian food and Chinese food in particular. They came to Richmond to have a beautiful Chinese meal. And then they were coming out to Steveston to have fresh seafood. So this is an example of when people are cruising, they want to see the region as well," said Small.
According to some research conducted by Tourism Richmond over the years, many cruisers, who haven't traveled for a while, are longing for "out of the ordinary" experiences that could stay with them even after they leave the destination, explained Small.
To ensure tourists leave Richmond happy and satisfied, Small and her team have collaborated with local businesses to transform the services and products they usually provide.
For example, Small said Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel on Westminister Highway will launch the Pacific Plates program this summer, inviting tourists to enjoy a variety of signature dishes originating from seven countries.
As a hotel run by a multi-cultural staff, Marriot invited their staff last year to think of some traditional dishes from their hometown. It could be something their grandmother used to make at home, said Small, adding that the program could offer cruise ship tourists a unique food tasting experience.
Tourism advocates aren’t the only ones excited about the return of cruise ships.
"This is also an exciting time for our economy; the cruise ship industry brings in more than $4 billion each year and generates approximately 30,000 jobs for Canadians," Federal Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said last Sunday.
"We're expecting this year's cruise season to be the biggest ever," he added.
-With files from Vancouver is Awesome (highlighted part is taken from VIA)