BC Ferries will upgrade the MV Nimpkish ferry to provide food, water, washrooms, seating and shelter for passengers on the summer run from Bella Bella to Bella Coola, to effort to retain traffic on the Discovery Coast circle tour.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Thursday the ferry upgrade and schedule changes are being made to make up for discontinuing the Port Hardy-to-Bella Coola run as part of cuts to under-used ferry routes.
Stone defended the decision to take the larger Queen of Chilliwack off its weekly summer run, replacing it with the Nimpkish four times a week. Connection from northern Vancouver Island to Bella Bella will be done with the Northern Expedition or Northern Adventure, newer vessels that serve the longer Inside Passage route from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.
The combined sailings provide enough capacity to carry the 500 to 600 vehicles a year that were taking the Queen of Chilliwack, Stone said. At that usage, the former route lost more than $7 million a year, an amount that would double if the aging Queen of Chilliwack were replaced, he said.
Tourism organizations and coastal communities have protested the change, saying foreign tour operators have lost confidence since the changes were announced last November.
Stone said tourism operators should identify their bookings and what is needed to make good on their commitments.
Minister of state for tourism Naomi Yamamoto will visit the Cariboo-Chilcotin to meet with tourism operators who have promoted the circle tour, which continues by road from Bella Coola to Williams Lake.