After a memorable interview with Caroline Proulx, Quebec’s Minister of Tourism, Stuart Forster tells you everything you need to know about visiting Quebec.
“We are ready to welcome Britons to Quebec,” says Caroline Proulx, the Minister of Tourism for the Province of Quebec, during an interview touching upon reasons to visit the Canadian province.
Proulx became Quebec’s Minister of Tourism in 2018 following a media career that encompassed presenting on both radio and television. In 2021 she launched an action plan committing CAD$30 million for investment in responsible and sustainable tourism.
Road trips in electric vehicles
“We launched last year the very first 100 per cent full electric circuit,” says the minister. The longest circuit available to drivers in 2021 was 280 kilometres (174 miles).
“So with an electric car from BonjourQuebec.com you could have a circuit that made sure that when you stop for an attraction, you have a plugin. So you visit that attraction and when you get back in your car, you go to the next step of your tour, and you have this circuit that makes you sure that you have a plugin and it’s 100 per cent electric,” explains Proulx.
Sustainable tourism in Quebec
It’s become clear that the specific measures needed to support sustainability vary according to the locality. The requirements of popular tourism destinations such as the Eastern Townships, the region of attractive towns and villages in the province’s south-east, and Mont Tremblant, popular for winter sports, differ markedly from those of the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
Climate change is reputed to be responsible for strong winds and, increasingly, less ice on the Magdalen Islands – factors blamed for accelerating erosion. Efforts made to counteract erosion by placing large rocks on the islands met with limited success. Lessons were learnt and that prompted an initiative collect data. Ultimately, the data will form the basis of targeted, localised actions for foster sustainability.
The Magdalen Islands offer a maritime landscape encompassing sandy beaches and lighthouses. The terroir lends character to the archipelago’s highly regarded cheese.
Formula One in Canada
The province saw huge inward investment in tourism during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels and attractions were renovated, and steps were taken to launch new ones. Efforts have been made to support festivals and live events.
Additionally, money was invested in Formula One Grand Prix racing. Montreal is the host city of the Canadian Grand Prix.
“We saw everything shut down and we said ‘okay, this is the opportunity to make sure that Quebec will be an even greater international destination after COVID is over,” says Proulx.
Investments were made in airports, to help secure new connections between Montreal and Europe and Quebec City and Europe.
Speaking English in Quebec
French is the province’s official language. However, most people in customer facing roles in the hospitality sector are comfortable communicating in English. Consequently it’s not a barrier for English-speaking travellers.
“Our accents and our French ways, I think, should not be something that should scare the Brits. I know that Britons mostly travel to western Canada, probably because of the English [language] factor. French should not scare you. I’ve heard that before, so I’m kind of ‘no, no, we can speak English in Quebec – no problem’.” says the Minister of Tourism.
Wildlife in northern Quebec
The landscape of Quebec is diverse. The most northerly point of the province is Cape Wolstenholme at a latitude similar to that of the Faroe Islands. Ungava Bay is famed for its polar bear population.
The subarctic northern reaches of Nunavik are inhabited by Inuit people, one of the 11 First Nations whose territories are in the land today termed Quebec.
First Nations tourism in Quebec
Recent years have seen an upsurge in European interest in Quebec’s indigenous tourism offerings.
“Just outside Quebec City there’s a First Nation, the Huron-Wendat in Wendake, where we,the Government of Quebec and tourism ministry, invested massively for a new experience with the First Nation and, simultaneously, with a company called Moment Factory. Moment Factory is Quebec company that is into multimedia and known around the world…they lit up LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, they lit up the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal, and now they’re doing more interactive experiences,” says Proulx.
“This is their very first collaboration with a First Nation and the new experience will be available as of June this year,” says the minister. The 1.2-kilometre illuminated trail will introduce Huron-Wendat myths and culture. The museum at the Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations presents travellers with opportunities to learn more.
Quebec fall colours
Away from urban centres, fishing and high-end hunting in the wilderness areas count among the tourism options open to visitors to Quebec. Leaf peeping is a popular draw in autumn.
Many of the cruise ships that call in Quebec time their calls to view the fall colours.
“The cruise lines are very important for Montreal but also for Quebec City. We work with the Quebec City tourism office board to bring [passengers] outside of Quebec City,” says the tourism minister of ongoing efforts to distribute cruising’s footfall.
Cruises to Quebec
“We’re working to lengthen that schedule, to start it earlier and even have them in winter. We’re really working hard with our cruisers on a four-season opportunity in Quebec…So we’re really pushing towards winter Magdalen Islands, for example. We’re working hard with them to bring tourists during winter and have a totally different experience through cruises,” she adds.
“We are lucky enough in Quebec to have really four seasons. The scenery is so different from autumn to spring and winter,” says the minister. Dispelling the idea that Quebec is a summer-only tourism destination, she names winter as her favourite season.
Winter tourism in Quebec
“Winter is just a great experience…It’s about getting the right clothes and when you come to Quebec, you go with Aventure Écotourisme Québec. They will provide all the clothing that you need. You don’t need to buy it before you come to Quebec,” adds the minister.
A favourable exchange rate
Beyond the attractions of Quebec, money may be a reason for Britons to consider a visit to Canada. At the time of writing [May 2022] one pound can be exchanged for CAD$1.59. ““The currency is very favourable towards the pound. So the Canadian dollar is, I think, a great incentive for travellers to come to Quebec,” says Proulx
All images (C) Stuart Forster
Tell me more about visiting Quebec
Travel to Quebec
On 12 May 2022 Air Transat began operating direct flights to Quebec City from London Gatwick. That expands the existing air transport options open to travellers from Britain who want to visit the province. Air Canada operates direct services between Heathrow and Montreal. WestJet and Air Transat both offer services with a single stop from Glasgow to Montreal.
Travel documentation for entering Canada
UK passport holders planning to travel to Canada require an Eletronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) or visa.
Where to stay in Quebec
The small town of Gaspé is eight hours’ drive from Quebec City and 10 hours from Montreal. Well away from those big cities, the Gaspé Peninsula offers a sense of remoteness. Whale-watching tours, bird watching on Bonaventure Island and is the location of the Geoparc de Percé, a UNESCO Global Geopark.
What and where to eat in Quebec
Quebecois chefs take chips and gravy to another level. Poutine is a popular comfort food and one of Canada’s must-try dishes.
Quebec City offers a broad choice of fine-dining restaurants, including the highly regarded Le Clan, offering modern interpretations of traditional Quebecois cuisine. The elegant Chez Muffy employs a farm-to-fork concept using local produce and offers dinner with wine pairings.