Peak tourist season may be a few months away, but the CLD Brome-Missisquoi, Tourisme Cantons de l’Est and area tourist attractions are already looking ahead. The CLD Brome-Missisquoi released its Strategic tourism plan 2022-2025 on Dec. 7. The plan emphasizes eco-friendly tourism, the outdoors and local food and wine attractions.
The concise five-page plan emphasizes nine actions: emphasis on the region as a leader in wine tourism, promoting local culinary know-how and the quality of local food products and food tourism experiences; offering a diverse range of outdoor tourism and agro-tourism activities year round; promoting the “richness of our cultural, natural and built heritage; raising awareness of environmentally responsible outdoor tourism practices; promoting best practices in terms of sustainable development within the tourist industry; encouraging businesses in the tourist industry to share information and develop partnerships; and collaborate with other industry partners in order to promote the region.
As tourists and locals become more conscious of the fragility of nature, the tourist industry is increasingly emphasizing sustainability. “The addition of the concept of sustainability to the strategic plan came about naturally,” said Guylaine Beaudoin, tourism development advisor at the CLD Brome-Missisquoi. “It also reflects the fact that businesses in the region intend to propose a high-quality range of activities while minimizing their impact on the environment.”
“We’re an outdoor region and an agrotourism region, and we’re aware of the impacts of climate change, so we don’t want to miss the train with sustainable tourism,” says Rémi Jacques, tourism development advisor at the CLD Brome-Missisquoi. He points to the Château Bromont, the Fromagerie Bromont and the Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton as sites which model best practices. Staff at the Parc d’environnement naturel “limit the number of tickets in order to limit the number of people on the trails, to conserve the trails and prevent erosion” while encouraging hikers to take less frequented trails. “Those are the kind of practices we risk to see more of,” says Jacques, adding that the CLD is looking at launching a communication campaign to promote low-impact tourism.
Jacques says encouraging different tourist industry stakeholders to work together will help the industry navigate the challenges caused by supply chain interruptions and the ongoing labour shortage. In a normal year, according to Jacques, the tourist industry employs about 4,000 people in the region.
The strategy was influenced by pandemic-fueled trends in outdoor tourism and in regional tourism, Jacques notes. He emphasizes that the Eastern Townships have not been faced with an “overtourism” problem on the same scale as that in the Gaspé region, where town authorities had to intervene in summer 2020 to stop tourists from camping on fragile beaches and in people’s backyards. “We don’t have those issues here, but we do need to think about some things for the future; we want to improve the experience not only for visitors, but for people who live in the communities visitors frequent, and we also want to encourage a mixed clientele – both local tourists and visitors from outside the region. These are things we would have done anyway, but they make even more sense in the current context.”