Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Cruise in All Seasons

Beth Kelly HattOn a good day, Beth Kelly Hatt can see three cruise ships unloading passengers on the pier from her office window at Aquila Tours. It’s a sign of how far things have come for one of the world’s top cruise destinations.

Since the first Carnival Cruise ship steered up the Bay of Fundy in 1994, a profitable and exciting industry has grown throughout Atlantic Canada’s seaports.

And Hatt’s tourism business in Downtown Saint John has become a fine example of how a business can grow strategically in response to the needs of the cruise lines. 

“That year, they visited eight times,” notes Hatt. “Now Saint John receives about 200,000 visitors a year, and we take 85,000 of them on tour.”

In 2011 alone, despite rainy weather, 825,000 cruise ship passengers and crew visited ports of call and outlying signature attractions in all four Atlantic provinces ― generating over $82.4 million dollars in direct economic impact.

“Atlantic Canada is now one of the top ten cruise destinations, world-wide,” Hatt beams. 

And the potential for even more growth appears significant.

With $1.14 million in funding announced in early 2012, the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association ― a partnership between ACOA and Parks Canada, ports, tourism and cruise ship interests in each of the four Atlantic provinces ― launched a three-year strategy aimed at extending the cruise season beyond the fall months. 

“Our biggest objective is to sell Atlantic Canada as a three season, family friendly destination,” says Atlantic Canada Cruise Association chairperson Betty MacMillan.

They already have a major boost.

In 2012, Disney Cruises comes to Halifax, NS and Saint John, NB for the first time, a tremendous coup in promoting the region to families.

Today, Hatt’s business has morphed from organizing conferences and events to exclusively dealing with cruise ship itineraries.  And at the request of the cruise lines, she has expanded her offerings to include both in person and online training for tour guides and operators all over the world.

According to Hatt, it’s the collaboration between businesses, ports and governments that have contributed to the region’s cruise ship successes so far. 

“This is a relationship business, and I think we are all working well together as an Atlantic Canadian entity to make this region attractive to the cruise ship companies and their passengers.”

And with so many visitors now cruising into town, this is one industry where more ships seem destined to come in.

Published August 3, 2012