$500 tickets are causing headaches in the Islands

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.

$500 tickets are causing headaches in the Islands

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, met by Le Journal on the archipelago.

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.

Since June 1, Quebecers can get a round trip to certain regional destinations – including the Magdalen Islands – for $ 500 thanks to a subsidy from the Ministry of Transport.

"You don't offer $500 tickets when the tickets sell out anyway. It was not necessary. You can offer some, in October, in November,” adds Ms. Chiasson.

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 have to travel by bicycle (see other text).

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 to Legault, "she laughs.

The sales manager of the Château Madelinot hotel, Ariane Bérubé, draws similar conclusions when it comes to analyzing the relevance of the program in high season.

“Would we have liked the program to allow us to extend our season in the spring and fall? The answer is yes. When we saw the result [of the program], we were a little surprised, ”notes Ms. Bérubé, who nevertheless welcomes the Minister’s interest in regional transport.

“It is not too late to retract. I think you have to leave it up to luck and 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 bought their ticket at full price.

“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 the reservation of their vacation until June 1, the date of the launch of the program, hoping to be able to get their hands on one of the $500 tickets.

In the office of the Minister of Transport, 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

Sign that the Islands are saturated with tourists in high season, a family from Pointe-Claire, was forced to travel by bike in the archipelago, for lack of cars available for rental.

The island's car shortage disrupted the family's plans for suburban Montreal just days after they booked their plane tickets in late May.

“Everything lined up pretty well with the flights. We found accommodation even if we were at the last minute, but we hadn't taken into account the car situation, ”admitted candidly 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 face the facts: it would not be possible to travel the Magdalen Islands by car.

By bike 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 plane tickets], to make sure that everything works, ”recognizes after the fact the mother of two boys aged 1 and 3 years old.

Never mind: not shrinking from any challenge, Stéphanie Milse and her family have opted for bicycle rental. 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 seem 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.

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 Magdalen Islands continues to be felt.

“We feel that the season is really advanced. 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 make 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 to be surprised, and it was a nice surprise,” explains Ariane Bérubé, sales director for the hotel complex.

Simon Barrette, a water sports instructor at Aerosport, finds it hard to believe that tourists arrived on the Islands so early.

Open earlier

"There are a lot of tourists at the beginning of June, and it'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 to spread it 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]. »