Tourism industry in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine: Joël Arseneau calls for a rescue plan for Quebec


June 30, 2020 21h52


Tourism industry in the Îles-de-la-Madeleine: Joël Arseneau calls for a rescue plan for Quebec

Johanne Fournier

Johanne Fournier

Special Collaboration

The member of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine claims to be from Quebec a rescue plan specific to the tourism industry of the archipelago. According to Joël Arseneau, several companies in the sector are “at the edge of the abyss”. It considers that the situation is attributable to difficulties related to access to the destination that led to a wave of cancellations in the industry.

Mr. Arseneau regrets that no agreement could be reached between the Quebec and New Brunswick so that visitors can sleep the night in the maritime province during their journey to the Islands. “I have consulted with several members of the tourism industry of Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the situation is very worrying, says the parliamentarian. It is a matter of concern. They live a precarious situation to be very high and of concern with prospects in regards to the traffic and the sales that are extremely dark. They lack the liquidity, even after be went to pick up a portion of available funds in loans secured by the program offered by the government. Even availing themselves of 75% of the assistance to the payroll provided by the federal government, the prospect of not being able to meet their fixed costs is real for many.”

Direct assistance

For the mp, the rescue plan must take the form of direct support to firms who will need to specifically cover their fixed costs, which would allow them to make the bridge to season 2021. “There are players who are key components of the tourism industry that we cannot afford to let fall. We can’t let the law of Darwin will win […].” According to Mr. Arseneau, this form of assistance has been developed in other provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, “where we launched an assistance program, grants and contributions are non-refundable, in addition to opportunities of loans with a low interest rate”. Mr. Arseneau also offers, for businesses who wish to avail themselves of an improvement program, renovations or maintenance of their infrastructure. “If direct assistance is insufficient, we might consider an indirect help.”

“”There are players who are key components of the tourism industry that we cannot afford to let fall. We can’t let the law of Darwin win” ”

Joël Arseneau, member of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine

The government caquiste must be creative in order to reach, believes the elected, “a program that would be similar to what we experienced at the beginning of the 2000s, where we had the principle of specific agreements in tourism development”. “We had received, at that time, an agreement of$ 3 million over a period of three years to support the tourism industry in its different phases of development, recalls Joël Arseneau. We were in a period where we had a crisis: that of the groundfish and employment. At this time, the government had put the resources specifically available to the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, who had revitalized the tourism industry.”

The amounts claimed are not extraordinary, according to Joël Arseneau. He calculates that a few thousand$ per business would be sufficient, which could total an envelope of$ 300 000 to$ 500 000 for the whole of the tourism industry madelinienne. The mp believes that Quebec has the responsibility to support the tourism industry of the Islands. In his view, it is advantageous for the government because of the tax revenue that it can remove an estimated economic impact of$14 million.

Profitability anemic

The issue of profitability is so uncertain for some tourism businesses that some of them have decided not to open their doors because they are afraid not to get you through the season. “These people have found that to operate at a loss was too risky,” explained Joël Arseneau. On the other hand, several entrepreneurs have made the bet on the opposite, the risk that the profitability is low, especially due to fixed costs such as insurance, municipal taxes, heating, rent in some cases or the mortgage in other cases, as well as the costs related to the adaptation of the new health rules.

In the opinion of the politician, the peak of a season which will begin mid-July in the sectors of accommodation and food has been estimated at between 25% and 50% of the traffic. “This is the peak period of a season shortened by almost a month and a half, if we compare with the rest of Quebec.”

Specific character related to the insularity

For the member of the parti québecois, the first thing to ask by the prime minister François Legault is to recognize the specific character related to the insularity of the archipelago. “During his last visit to the Islands, in August of 2017, while he was in the opposition, it was committed to respect and enforce the decree on the insularity. Unfortunately, since his accession to power, he did not implement the decree, it has not meant that he would have special attention to ensure that the decree then be recognised by the whole of the québec government and the different ministries. Today, the hour of truth has sounded since the economic situation that depends, for us in the Islands, the health of the fisheries and the tourism industry, is being undermined. The tourism industry falters due to the specificities of the archipelago.”

One of the reasons that explain the vicissitudes of the tourist industry is linked to the limited capacity of the health system of the Islands. Consequently, Quebec will cap the number of visitors to 35 000, which represents half the traffic as usual. It should also be said that the ferry that transports visitors to Cap-aux-Meules must also comply with Transport Canada’s rules that imposed a limit of 50% of its capacity boarding.

In addition to the problem of access to the Islands, the character of the seasonality of the tourism industry is another factor that, according to the deputy Arseneau, is proper to the economy of the maritime community. “If you miss this window then between mid-may and mid-September, there is no catching up possible. It does not live in the cities of Quebec, in The Laurentians, Charlevoix. Elsewhere in Quebec, there are opportunities to develop a tourist season of fall, around Christmas and winter, which is not the case of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine.”

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