The maritime leisure transport sector in British Columbia, Canada is at a cross road. Canada’s port and ocean transport industry are heavily focused on cargo handling. Recent policy developments have concentrated on creating gateways for improving our international trade competitiveness. Canadian researchers, including tourism consultants, have largely overlooked the possible merits of a holistic perspective to the development of the maritime leisure transport sector. To address this gap in the literature, Darryl Anderson in this paper presented at the Canadian Transportation Research Forum compared and contrasted significant innovations in the cruise, passenger ferry and super yacht segments of the British Columbia marketplace from a demand and supply side perspective. The research identified and summarized the structural changes that have occurred in this part of the marine transportation market.

Ports display a discernible life cycle consisting of high growth, development, and maturity. The maritime leisure transport sector in BC certainly demonstrates these cycles. The cruise and large yacht segments both displayed more robust growth trends than passenger ferries. These segments have business models that are more attuned to emerging global leisure travel trends and witnessed a corresponding number of supply-side innovations that met consumer needs. In contrast, the ferry sector has not understood leisure demand as well as the other segments.

Despite past periods of strong growth, and efforts to respond to that growth, the maritime leisure transport sector within BC is not without challenges. According to Kotel et al. (1993), “marketplace shifts and changes occur far faster than a community’s capacity to react and respond.” This review of the cruise, ferry and large yacht sector traffic figures in BC supports this observation.

A paradigm shift (akin to Canada’s “Gateway Strategy” for cargo) is needed to recognize the unique needs of the maritime leisure transport sector in BC.   As the economic recovery gains momentum, there are some niche diversification opportunities for ports and coastal communities that are aligned with the industry trends.  These opportunities could prove to be elusive unless stakeholders begin to act in concert. The British Columbia government and some segments of the industry have recognized the need to work together and in 2013 created the Power and Sail Cruise Sector Tourism Plan. More work needs to be done to help drive tourism growth.