As COVID-19 continues, one Kingston tourism company focuses on community
KINGSTON -- From boats to trollies, changes are being made to how you tour Kingston this summer.
The Kingston Destination Group, which runs some of the city’s waterfront tourism attractions including 1000 Islands Cruises, and Kingston Trolley Tours, says after weeks of being docked they had to get creative.
So they created “Pod Tours.”
Captain of the “Island Queen” Stephen Steels says anyone can rent it out with friends and family in a small group.
“It’s their private mega-yacht for an hour and a half,” laughs Captain Steels. “This is your crew, we’re here for you.”
Transport Canada restrictions on commercial vessels were lifted at the beginning of July, but provincial restrictions still limit gatherings to a maximum of ten people.
Kingston Destination Group’s General Manager Hugh Mackenzie says the approach this year was focused on drawing in those living in Kingston and eastern Ontario.
“Our approach this year was really how can we invest this into our community,” says Mackenzie. “How can we engage the city of Kingston, into stay local, be at home, and experience... our beautiful city.”
Usually renting out the Island Queen for a private tour would start at $2,500.
But now it will cost between $350 and $650, depending on when you rent it.
Mackenzie says they’ll only be doing these tours until July 15, because of the fiscal restraints.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Hasn’t made any money,” laughs Mackenzie. “But it’s been a lot of fun.“
And the time is just right, as Kingston Health Officials call for the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to continue until pandemic is under control in the U.S.
“Re-opening the border too soon will almost certainly increase the risk of COVID-19 cases in Canada,” says the city’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. “Particularly given the previous rates of tourism between the two countries.”
On the company’s trolley tours, similar changes are being made.
The tours usually run with five trolleys, allowing people go get on and off at stops like Fort Henry, and the Pumphouse Museum.
But with tourist numbers low, Mackenzie says only two trolleys will be running through this summer.
Residents will have their contact information taken, wear masks, as required by law in Kingston, and use hand sanitizer when entering. You also won’t be able to hop off the bus, once the tour begins.
Mackenzie says they’re pushing on.
“We are going to continue to operate the product, even if it loses money, to be able to do the tour because it’s really important to buoy people’s spirits.”