DESTINATION AND TOURISM

Setting a new course for Pictou cruise ship visits

Town of Pictou. | August 23, 2021

PICTOU, N.S, After two seasons of cancelled cruise ship visits, the local tourism industry is showing signs of a rebound after COVID.
Michelle Young, Manager of Recreation Services for Pictou Recreation and Parks, says that while cruise ship visits may have been on pause since 2020, work has continued behind the scenes to prepare for an eventual return of tourists. Now, bookings are beginning to ramp up again with ships scheduled to visit in 2022 and 2023.
“We're very optimistic,” says Young. “There's a lot of preparation, though, to get to that point. Over this past year-and-a-half, the cruise sector has been highly impacted with COVID. So, in the meantime, there's been a lot of preparation going on at the higher levels. When the reopening happens, there will be protocols in place and guidelines that will be given to us that we will have to follow. There's also preparation on the community side as well.”
Since 2012, the local cruise ship business has grown by partnering with companies operating smaller-sized vessels – an ideal fit for the primarily American tourists looking for a unique tourist experience.
“We've had some great successes,” says Young. “There's a company that is regularly calling on Pictou every year – Pearl Seas. We've always aligned, what we have here according to the cruise company and what their brand is all about and what their client is looking for.”
According to Young, the appeal to Pictou for U.S. visitors is a mixture of local features, including the connection to Scotland, local architecture and music. For some, the draw is a tie to family.
“There's been a number of times that passengers on the ship actually get off and visit friends and family here, or they have come through another time while traveling and had a desire to come back by ship,” says Young. “We have one family that was researching family history and they needed to find a graveyard here. So that was very, very specific- they had their own agenda for that cruise.”
The return of the cruise ships in a boon to the entire local economy, say Young, with not just tourism-related businesses benefiting.
“Impact is in the local economy here is, you know who comes through your front door,” says Young. “By cruise passengers and crews locally walking through a gift shop or a pharmacy looking for either a souvenir or supplies, those are the direct things that local business community feel.”
Adam Coulter, the UK Managing Editor for cruisecritic.com, predicts that smaller vessels to more unique locations will be a rising trend for the cruise ship industry in the future. “Expedition ships also focus on outdoor exploration in more remote places, which has become a priority during the pandemic,” says Coulter in a recent article.
For Pictou, getting on the map for the cruise industry at this moment might be ideal as companies look for smaller, safer destinations that are off the beaten path.

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