All cruise ship tours through the Arctic will be suspended for the rest of the year as federal transportation minister Marc Garneau announced on Friday.
“Given the limited public health capacity in Canada’s Northern communities, the cruise ship season for vessels with Canadian Arctic stops will be deferred for the entire season this year. This would apply to cruise ships of all sizes,” said a statement on the Ministry’s website, in reference to safety measures in the face of COVID-19.
The minister also announced a delay in the cruise ship season until July 1 for ships carrying more than 500 people for the rest of Canada.
Several NWT Arctic communities benefit from the ships that pass through the region and anchor off shore. Passengers visit the communities and contribute to their economies through tourism activities, sales of arts, crafts and clothing and other transactions.
More than $100,000 was spent in Ulukhaktok alone last year during four cruise ship visits, according to a Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) blog post.
“I’m thankful for (the ban) because we’re a very small community and we’d be wiped out in no time if this virus came up here,” as Joanne Ogina, acting SAO of the hamlet of Ulukhaktok told News/North.
However, Ogina acknowledged her community would feel the economic impacts of the ban.
“We do make a tidy sum off sales to cruise ship passengers. We provide tours, we do drum dances on the ships, we provide tour guides and people who do demonstrations of Arctic sports and share country foods with passengers on the shore.
“But we’ll make do and we’ve made do in the past,” she said.
News/North reached out to Erwin Elias, mayor of Tuktoyaktuk for comment but didn’t receive a response by press time.
However, former mayor Merven Gruben, who was in office until last December said the hamlet receives few tourists from the cruise ships but “more importantly would be the slow down or stop of tourists coming up to visit us on the Tuk all weather highway.”
The mayors of Sachs Harbour and Paulatuk didn’t respond to inquiries from News/North.
The cruise ship restrictions come as Canada faces a rising number of incidences of COVID-19, with at least 152 positive cases reported on Friday, and one death, as the Public Health Agency of Canada reported.
The virus has so far spared the NWT and no cases have been reported as of Friday, said the Department of Health and Social Services.