An explosive new economic impact analysis promises to demonstrate the BC Government’s decision to cut the Discovery Coast Route 40 ferry service was shortsighted and destructive to the local economy and tourism. Not only have the oft-touted savings not materialized, it has caused financial damage to the provincial economy that might take years to recover.
The Larose Research & Strategy study, prepared for the West Chilcotin Tourism Association, will be released in full on Monday November 17th, but early findings indicate Transportation Minister Todd Stone has cost BC taxpayers millions in his attempt to save thousands.
Among the key findings, reducing vehicle capacity on the vital Port Hardy-Bella Coola run by 92% has helped cut total ridership almost in half, from 4,995 passengers in 2013 to 2,696 passengers in 2014. Gross tourism revenue losses from this decline are projected at approximately $3.9 million for the year.
“Minister Stone announced these changes as a way for BC Ferries to save $725,000. But even those meagre savings disappeared when they realized they had to maintain a Circle Tour link between Port Hardy and Bella Coola,” said Petrus Rykes, Vice President of West Chilcotin Tourism Association. “So BC Ferries didn’t save anything, and the tourism industry lost millions. Who did this benefit?”
Tourism operators are facing more bleak times ahead, as reviews from this year’s visitors are beginning to spread. Visitor experiences for the MV Nimpkish, the replacement ferry on the modified Discovery Coast Connector service, were surveyed using Net Promoter, a worldwide measurement standard for customer experience. While the industry average score is +24 and businesses scoring below +10 are considered challenged, the Nimpkish rated a -34. This means that 34% more visitors would actively detract from the service compared with those who would promote it to others.
“Reputation in the travel industry is vital, as visitors share their experience with family, friends, and the online world. These cuts have damaged British Columbia’s reputation internationally,” said Rykes, “and we’ll be feeling the effects for years. The Nimpkish experiment was a disaster, and a real solution is needed before more businesses close and more jobs are lost.”