Over 30 cruise ship visits are in the books for Parry Sound this summer, making a record-breaking season for the town.
That from Vladimir Shehovtsov, Parry Sound’s Economic Development Officer. He says according to recent industry statistics, each ship [visit] brings in around 200 passengers and each passenger spends an average of $100 a day, and that’s not counting the ship’s staff. Shehovtsov says 33 ships are booked for this year, which means this season has the opportunity to inject over $600,000 into the town’s economy.
“It will be an absolutely record-breaking season for us because even last year we had 20 which was a record for us. Before COVID we had 10 to 12 visits per year. Because the cruise ship industry on the Great Lakes is expanding so rapidly, [Parry Sound’s Economic Development department] thinks that [the town] will have several more new cruise ship operators coming to the Great Lakes and Parry Sound as of next year,” Shehovtsov says.
As a result of political and climate issues over the past three years, Shehovtsov says cruise ship operators are beginning to look outside of the usual famous destinations, adding the Great Lakes remain one of the lesser-travelled destinations for cruise ship tourism. He says new operators are coming on board, interested in the Great Lakes. Shehovtsov says Parry Sound will be welcoming four operators, one of them for the first time, this year. “It is quite possible, and we project, that in two to three years we may have in Parry Sound over 40 visits per season, maybe even closer to 50 cruise ship visits per season,” he says.
However, Shehovtsov says unfortunately up till now, several local business owners have yet to see much value from cruise ships coming to town. He says the potential revenue from these cruise ships is definitely there, adding that he is trying to push for local businesses to get involved and tap into the growing industry.
“So what local businesses have to do [to best benefit from these cruise ship visits] is be flexible. They have to be [more] accommodating,” Shehovtsov says. “Sometimes cruise ships come to town when it’s a national holiday in Canada or they come on Sunday and the shops are closed for one reason or another. This is a direct loss for local businesses because passengers are tourists. They walk through the town and if a store or art gallery is closed, they will not come into the store and they will not buy anything,” he says.
Shehovtsov says as a result, the town’s Economic Development department is suggesting businesses stay open longer hours possibly when ships are in town. “Like restaurants maybe up till 11:00 p.m. on the waterfront or until midnight if they can of course. Sometimes ships will stay overnight, and passengers would like to have some fun on the ground and not go to bed at 9:00 p.m.,” he says.
Shehovtsov says local businesses can reach out to him directly if they are interested in being involved with the incoming cruise ships. He says his department is in contact with all four cruise operators and works together with the ships to help fill their passengers’ itineraries of things to do and places to go once docked.