Vancouver Fraser Port Authority claims record year for cruise passengers

Organization’s figures actually show that 2019 is the second-largest season in its 33-year history

Cruise ships have been sailing out of Vancouver for 33 years | Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

The Port of Vancouver is calling the 2019 cruise season the largest ever for cruise passengers despite earlier this year projecting that the year would be the second largest in the 33 years since cruise ships started docking in Vancouver.

“2019 was a very exciting and successful cruise season in Vancouver, with a record number of cruise passengers,” said Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s vice-president of planning and operations, Peter Xotta, in a release.

The port authority did not reveal an exact number of passengers that it expects to have been on cruise ships during the season, which ends on November 1. Instead it said that this year is expected to have 22% more passengers than last year, when 895,000 passengers went on cruises out of Vancouver – more passengers than in any year since 2009, when there were 898,473 passengers.

That would put the number of passengers on cruise ships this year at 1,091,900 passengers, or 33,352 fewer passengers than in 2002, when a record 1,125,252 passengers went on Vancouver cruises. That year may have been so successful in part because it followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and some people were concerned about flying.

Port authority officials earlier this year projected that about 1,077,000 people would be passengers on 290 cruise-ship voyages that would dock in Vancouver in 2019. On October 31 it clarified that it expects there to be 288 ship visits, including a visit tomorrow, when the Star Princess leaves Vancouver to sail down the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles, before embarking on a 16-day round trip to Hawaii.

(Note: After this article appeared, the port authority sent Business in Vancouver an email to explain the numerical discrepancy. It said that its formula for calculating cruise passengers has changed, specifically related to a small number of passengers who neither embarked or disembarked in Vancouver, but were rather in a class called "in-transit."  In 2002, those passengers were counted twice, the port authority said. Its revised figure for 2002 is 1,076,706, or 294 passengers fewer than its original projection for this year.)

Regardless, the cruise sector is a key economic driver for the region; each cruise ship that visits Vancouver stimulates about $3 million in direct activity to the local economy, according to the port authority.

The 2020 cruise ship season is set to sail starting April 2.

The 2019 season came with highlights such as the return of the classic luxury cruise line Cunard after more than 20 years

Vancouver has much more competition than it did decades ago, thanks to expansion in Seattle and Victoria. The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority yesterday announced that 709,042 passengers were on 257 cruise ship calls this year.

Cruise ship passenger growth in Victoria may slow, however, given that Victoria city council earlier this month passed a controversial motion to limit the number of cruise ships coming into the city because of environmental concerns.