The $500 tickets did not help tourism in the Magdalen Islands where hotels and other attractions were full this summer even before the Legault government's announcement.
“Bonnardel, he didn't understand how things worked on the Islands,” says Amélie Chiasson, owner of Leblanc car rental, interviewed by Le Journal sur l'archipel.
> Amélie Chiasson, Leblanc car rental
Tourism stakeholders in the Islands believe that the program of Transport Minister François Bonnardel misses the target by subsidizing tickets even in high tourist season.
- Listen to the interview of Patrick Déry with Gabriel Giguère, public policy analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute on QUB radio:
Since June 1, Quebecers have been able to get a round trip to certain regional destinations — including the Magdalen Islands — for $500 thanks to a subsidy from the Ministère des Transports.
“Tu don't offer $500 tickets when tickets sell out anyway. It was not necessary. You can offer some, in October, in November,” adds Ms. Chiasson.
No less than 68,000 tourists visited the Îles-de-la-Madeleine last year, the same number as before the pandemic. .
Indeed, almost all the hotels are full and you have to book weeks in advance to go to the restaurant.
The situation is so critical that some tourists are unable to rent a car and must travel by bicycle (see other text).
– Listen to Alkexandre Dubé's interview with Jonathan Lapierre, mayor of the Îles-de-la-madeleine on QUB radio:
Pleasing the electorate
In this context, Ms. Chiasson suspects that the Bonnardel minister's announcement was hasty to satisfy the electorate.
“There are elections in October. It’s like the $500 at Legault,” she laughs.
The sales manager of the Château Madelinot hotel, Ariane Bérubé, draws similar conclusions when the time comes to analyze the relevance of the program in high season.
“Would we have liked the program allows us to extend our season in spring and autumn? The answer is yes. When we saw the result [of the program], we were a little surprised,” notes Ms. Bérubé, who nonetheless salutes the Minister’s interest in regional transportation.
“It is not too late to retract. Personally, I think you have to leave it to chance and that there is a lot of trial and error. »
Disappointments among tourists
Similar story at Club Voyage Les Îles, which had to manage several disappointments among customers who had purchased their full price ticket.
“July and August, I think we are at saturation point. Could the program be adapted so that these two months are excluded? asks France Groulx, co-owner of the agency.
She also notes that many have chosen to postpone booking their vacations until June 1, the date of the program's launch, hoping to be able to get their hands on one of the $500 tickets.
At the Minister's Office des Transports, we are rather pleased to have received the support of municipal partners.
“The program is working and we are proud to have put in place this ambitious plan which aims to stimulate demand for our regions on an annual basis”, says press officer Claudia Loupret.
The $500 note in brief
- Quebec government program that aims to “stimulate the regional economy and the resumption of activities tourism”;
- Envelope of $71 million, from June 1, 2022 to March 31, 2024;
- Offered year-round between Montreal or Quebec and fifteen regions, including the Magdalen Islands;
- Some 100,000 tickets per year are available at a discount;
- 3,948 tickets have been sold as of June 16, 2022.
Impossible to rent a car
A sign that the Islands are saturated with tourists in high season, a family from Pointe-Claire was forced to cycle around the archipelago , for lack of cars available for rent.
Stéphanie Milse, her husband, François Lebeau, and their two boys, Félix and Elliot, have to travel the Islands by bike, for lack of a rental car available.
The island's car shortage disrupted the family's plans for suburban Montreal just days after they booked their plane tickets in late May.
< p>“Everything lined up pretty well with the flights. We found accommodation even though we were at the last minute, but we hadn't taken the car situation into account,” candidly admits Stéphanie Milse, on vacation in the Islands since June 26.
The small family first had a plan to visit Portugal. But due to the passport crisis, she canceled her trip across the Atlantic and set her sights on the St. Lawrence archipelago.
After many calls and emails, the family of four had to to face the facts: it would not be possible to travel around the Îles-de-la-Madeleine by car.
By bicycle to get around
“We were very surprised by the situation. We weren't expecting that. We said to ourselves that we should have checked before [the purchase of the plane tickets], to make sure that everything works, ”admits after the fact the mother of two boys aged 1 and 3 years old.
< p>Never mind: stepping back from no challenge, Stéphanie Milse and her family have opted to hire bicycles. An idea that quickly charmed them.
In this regard, several people informed of their travel plans did not hesitate to serve them warnings.
“Several people told us: “You are crazy, don’t do this, cancel your trip!” recognizes Ms. Milse, who is not, however, impressed.
In a bike rental shop in Cap-aux-Meules, it is confirmed that the situation of this family is far from unique.
“There seems to be a lot more people flying this year. It calls every day, last minute,” explains Louis-Éric Cyr, manager of the bike workshop at Le Pédalier.
“The world does not imagine that the Islands are so vast. So they get here and realize, “Oh, my God, I'm 50 km from my hotel”. »,
The shop has also recorded a 50% increase in its rentals compared to previous years, especially for electric bikes.
One month of May record
The archipelago had a record start to the season, according to tourism stakeholders. Even though international travel restrictions are behind us, the enthusiasm for the Îles-de-la-Madeleine continues to be felt.
Marie-Claude Vigneault. Café de la Grave
“We feel that the season is really early. Almost a month in advance,” rejoices Marie-Claude Vigneault, owner of Café de la Grave, an institution on the Islands.
“We had a really busy month of May. And in June, we have days as if it were July, ”she continues.
A faster start
At Château Madelinot, we are pleasantly surprised to see Quebecers still there, despite the opening of international borders.
“The tourist season started earlier, and it started faster. I was the first surprised, and it's a nice surprise,” explains Ariane Bérubé, sales manager for the hotel complex.
Simon Barrette, a water sports instructor at Aerosport, finds it hard to believe that the tourists arrived so early on the Islands.
“There are a lot of tourists in early June, and that’s something we’re really not used to. Every time I see them come into the shop, it surprises me, he says. Already, there is talk of opening earlier next season. »
A start to the season that has something to delight Tourisme Îles-de-la-Madeleine. For more than a decade, the organization has tried in every way to stretch the tourist season.
“What is important for us is to temper July and August, to try that is spread over the other months, explains Michel Donato, general manager of Tourisme Îles-de-la-Madeleine. We have somewhat the same mandate as Public Health; we have to flatten the curve [of tourists]. »
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