A recent economic impact study estimates that government changes to the Discovery Coast ferry service reduced ridership, decreased tourism dollars, and resulted in poor visitor satisfaction ratings.
The study, conducted by Larose Research and Strategy and commissioned by the West Chilcotin Tourism Association, examined the impact of major changes to ferry services between Bella Coola and Port Hardy, or the “Discovery Coast Passage”. This modified service was introduced in June 2014, reducing service capacity in the peak season and decommissioning one vessel.
The study estimates that same-day ridership between Port Hardy and Bella Coola declined from 4,995 passengers to 2,696, a decrease of 46 per cent. Estimated gross tourism losses are at $3.9 million, meaning an annual gross GDP loss of $1.7 million. According to the study, about 37 tourims jobs were lost in 2014 because of the service reductions, and average visitor satisfaction ratings that fell to 2.65 out of 5, compared to a BC Ferries average of 4.17.
Not only that, but businesses were severely affected. The study estimates that 41 per cent of the businesses in the regions lost more or all of tour and wholesaler bookings. Additionally, 19 per cent of businesses reported that inadequate regional ferry services are causing foreclosure to be a near-term possibility.
(Photo Credit: BC Ferries)
“The government did not undertake a single economic study before making these reckless cuts. Not one,” said Petrus Rykes, Vice-President of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association. “This is the first comprehensive review of the impact these changes have had, and it confirms our worst fears. The government has managed to cost itself money, not save it.”
“Transportation Minister Todd Stone gutted tourism in this region with these cuts, and the bleeding is going to continue for years if it’s not stopped,” said Rykes. “There are phenomenal growth opportunities for tourism here, if the government would only stop being hostile to its own best interests and the best interests of the region.”
This study comes shortly after a Vancouver Island man's public rant against BC Ferries went viral.