Cruise ships are back on the Great Lakes

Thunder Bay is awaiting the arrival of the Viking ship Octantis, which will make 14 trips that will begin or end on the north shore of Lake Superior.

When Octantis’ passage was announced in January 2020, Tourism Thunder Bay estimated the boat’s passage would bring $1.6 million to $2.3 million in revenue to the region. The organization then expected that 5,200 tourists would visit Thunder Bay and its surroundings during their trip.

For the entire season, the economic impact of the return of cruises is estimated at between $3.8 million and $5.6 million. This should help the tourism industry, which the Thunder Bay Economic Development Corporation says will be one of the city’s greatest strengths in 2022.

Data released in March by the municipal entity shows that more than 8 million Canadians have searched online to learn more about Thunder Bay in 2021.

We are really excited. We are two weeks away from the ship’s maiden arrival. [le 27 mai]which is the largest to have crossed the Great Lakes according to Thunder Bay Tourism Director Paul Pepe.

Mr. Pepe indicates that the ship will be in town for 36 hours seven times this summer . This means that travelers who embark or disembark from the cruise ship will have time to stock up and discover the region.

Already, the reservations of five of the 14 routes are full and the others sell out fast.

A man posing in front of a marina.

Paul Pepe, Tourism Manager for the City of Thunder Bay.

Photo: CBC/Amy Hadley

According to Mr. Pepe, this is a great opportunity promote the City of Thunder Bay as a travel destination to the cruise industry.

Such ships have rarely visited Thunder Bay since 2012, partly because they could no longer pass through the locks leading to the harbour. However, builders have spent more time making smaller cruisers over the past decade, allowing companies to explore the Great Lakes again.

In preparation for the cruise season, Thunder Bay has invested $2.5 million to improve port infrastructure. Mr Pepe stresses that this work will also allow residents to enjoy the port .

COVID-19 still worries

Despite the easing of health restrictions in Ontario in January 2022, Thunder Bay Tourism remains cautious about the effect the health crisis may have on the summer ahead. COVID-19 has created a lot of anxiety in the local tourism industry.

The Government of Canada has closed the Great Lakes to cruise ships for two summers explains Pepe.

We are still adapting to this post-COVID world. But there’s a lot of flexibility and communication with partners to work together and navigate what’s happening. »

A quote from Paul Pepe, Director of Tourism Thunder Bay

The tourism industry is not totally in the promised land as rules and restrictions are still in place, but Mr Pepe reminds that people haven’t traveled for two years. There is a request.

Thunder Bay’s parks and protected areas and historic sites are all things to see you take for granted, but they’re on the tourist list, he indicates.

Manitoulin Island wants to take advantage

The Mayor of the Municipality of Northeast Manitoulin and the Islands, Alan MacNevin, is looking forward to being able to welcome cruises again in order to help the local economy, which has been strongly affected by the pandemic.

Cruises no longer came and the majority of small businesses suffered because they were closed or only offered curbside delivery or pickuphe recalls.

Fortunately, Manitoulin Island’s tourism industry has held up well in times of easing health restrictions. According to Mr. MacNevin the island became very busy when the province began to deconfine.

There is still some nervousness about the return of cruises due to the risk of transmission of COVID-19 both on boats and in communities, but the mayor indicates that everyone is looking forward to the return of such activities.

The community of Little Current will serve as a stop for several vessels and the passage of large vessels will be beneficial for several reasons. In addition to transporting new tourists by sea, the vessels will attract people from the region who wish to see them.

The coast of Lake Superior will be an important asset. Mr. MacNevin expects to a significant increase in the number of American visitors which represent half of the boats that travel on the river during the summer.

With information from Christophe Simard, Francis Bouchard and CBC

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