Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tourism and Business Losing Millions over Cuts to BC Ferries: Study

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tourism and Business Losing Millions over Cuts to BC Ferries: Study

Article excerpt

Ferry cuts hurt tourism businesses: study

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VICTORIA - British Columbia's mid-Coast region has been hit hard by government ferry service cuts that threaten to turn the community of Bella Coola into a dead-end town, says the operator of an eco-friendly lodge in the remote Bella Coola Valley.

Tweedsmuir Park Lodge owner Beat Steiner said Monday the impact of the service cuts was almost immediate this past summer, with passenger traffic down by about 50 per cent this year and some local businesses reporting losses of up to 90 per cent.

The Transportation Ministry announced last November that route service changes to the Port Hardy to Bella Coola service included decommissioning the 115-vehicle capacity MV Queen of Chilliwack, which provided a direct weekly round trip and was a favourite of tourists.

A service continued to the area last summer, but with the less furnished 16-vehicle MV Nimpkish and the large, open ocean MV Northern Expedition to create a connector route between Bella Coola and Port Hardy. The trip from Bella Coola to Bella Bella on board the Nimpkish has been criticized as a bare bones, milk-run service.

Steiner said the route and service changes reduced visits on the Discovery Coast Circle Tour, which largely involved tourists, taking the Port Hardy to Bella Coola ferry, where they disembark and travel by vehicle across the central Interior to the Lower Mainland or the Rockies.

"We need a ferry service into Bella Coola, otherwise it is essentially a dead-end community," said Steiner at a news conference attended by Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan. "There's such a loss of potential that it's staggering. On that route from Port Hardy, you are seeing whales and dolphins. Bella Coola is a stunning valley. It's one of the jewels of B.C."

The West Chilcotin Tourism Association, of which Steiner is a member, commissioned an impact study that concluded tourism revenue has dropped by $3. …

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