Tourists cancelling summer plans in wake of ferry sinking

  • Mar. 24, 2006 8:00 a.m.

One group of tourists from Vancouver have already cancelled their trip to Gwaii Haanas and director of communications Kate Alexander says the park office has had other calls of concern as well.
The cancellation was made over the SuperNatural BC Reservation line, so Ms Alexander can’t be sure it was due to the sinking of the Queen of the North, but all she can do is advise people to book their travel plans early, either on the air or the ferry.
But there’s one small problem. For now, BC Ferries is not taking reservations for summer travel on the northern routes. Callers to the reservation line are told BC Ferries is hoping to have the Queen of Prince Rupert up and running by April 1, and a summer schedule will be set soon after that.
Mary Kellie who runs Spruce Point Lodge in Queen Charlotte and Queen Charlotte Adventures says she has had calls of concern from clients too.
One group with reservations for a trip at the end of June were told by BC Ferries to make other arrangements for getting to the islands.
The other members of the group are considering cancelling after hearing the news.
“If one group cancels the other can’t go either, as there wouldn’t be enough on the trip,” says Ms Kellie.
It’s frustrating for her because the ferry service is so up in the air, she can’t reassure either party.
“This bodes darkly for tourism,” she says. “Older people need everything locked down. If there is any change in anything, they get really upset.”
Ian Giesbrecht of the Northern BC Tourism Assocation says BC Ferries has had an excellent safety track record and he is certain the corporation will come up with a solution.
“We’re confident the service will be just as good.”
Tourism is becoming an important industry as the islands switch from a resource based economy, he says.
“The Charlottes are so unique, the ferry not getting them there is not going to get in their way,” he says.
Dutes Dutheil, one of the directors of the Queen Charlotte Islands Chamber of Commerce, says the chamber will start lobbying BC Ferries right away for a summer schedule.
“It will affect our businesses if they don’t do something,” he says.
Mr. Dutheil adds that upcoming forum with representatives from the Prince of Wales Island is timely. One of the experts coming started the Inter-Island Ferry Authority in Alaska. This system uses ferries built in Seattle that hold 30 cars and 150 passengers.
He says the ferries go through as rough of water as found in the Hecate Strait with no problems.