Tourism sectors affected by regional climate realities
Climate change is already having a direct influence on managers in their planning and decision-making, e.g. with regard to peak activity and visiting periods, financing and investments, service and accessibility, human resources, damage and safety, customer experience as well as image and reputation. Depending on how the climate evolves in each of Quebec’s regions, different sectors of activity will be affected in different ways.
Infrastructure damage and limited access to tourism in province’s North
In Quebec’s Far North, rapidly rising temperatures are notably causing permafrost thawing to accelerate. Tourism in this region could therefore be affected by damaged infrastructure or limited access to the area on account of unstable ground, which historically has remained frozen year-round.
Impact on health and safety of festival-goers
Regions lying farther south, including the more densely populated cities of Montréal and Québec City, will be hit more frequently by extreme events, notably heat waves, heavy rains, violent winds, thunderstorms, etc. These events are especially challenging for planning outdoor activities such as festivals. This can have an impact on the health and safety of visitors and affect both product quality and the customer experience of festival enthusiasts.
Photo : Jean-François Hamelin (Place des festivals, Montréal)
Fluctuating levels of maritime and coastal tourism
For regions lying along the St. Lawrence River (Bas-Saint-Laurent, Côte-Nord, Gaspésie, Îles-de-la-Madeleine) increased erosion and coastal flooding are becoming problematic. Maritime and coastal tourism is firmly established and popular not only with the residents of Quebec, but also with tourists from outside the province. However, this appeal could be compromised by climate change, and the tourism industry in these regions could see fewer visitors in the event of diminished environmental quality or an uptick in damage to facilities or infrastructure.
Lower product quality in outdoor/adventure sectors
Lastly, in central Quebec, notably the regions of Abitibi, northern Mauricie and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, climate change impacts will result in shifts in the distribution of ecosystems. In this regard, the disappearance of certain species or changing forest dynamics could affect the quality of tourism products offered in the context of outdoor/adventure activities.
Photo : Steeve Morin (Percé, 2017)
Activities affected by seasonal climate realities
Impacts will also be observed on day-to-day operations as well as the annual planning of seasonal tourism activities. In spring, it will be more difficult for tourism industries in flood-prone areas to schedule their activities due to earlier flooding. Increasingly frequent heat waves in summer will have impacts on the health and safety of outdoor activity enthusiasts.
In autumn, damage to infrastructure stemming from more intensive rainfall could have an impact on site accessibility. Lastly, shorter winters and the occurrence of freeze-thaw episodes could affect product quality consistency, trail access and the safety of activities practised on lakes and rivers.
The effects of climate change on the seasons could also accentuate certain challenges currently faced by the tourism industry. Such impacts include labour shortages due to a longer summer season or overcrowding at nature or aquatic parks during heat waves.
Photo : Outpost, Kuururjuaq National Park
Capitalizing on opportunities
Despite the challenges that the tourism industry must overcome on account of climate change, there are also opportunities. For example, the industry can invest in the development and complementarity of its offering as a function of seasonal shifts as well as Quebec’s advantageous location compared to regions farther south.
For example, initiatives launched by the industry include the diversification of activities offered to adapt to different winter conditions and different clienteles such as “fatbikes” and winter hiking, which are increasingly popular and can be enjoyed when conditions for other winter sports such as skiing are less than optimal. To create such opportunities, it is essential to have a proper understanding of the impacts of climate change, which is the first step of adaptation.