The president of the Association des pourvoiries de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Yves Bouthillette, acknowledges that the removal of a large part of the restrictions was received as a relief by its members, but that the clientele lost after two years of interruption is not easy to regain.
“After two years of restrictions like we had, it will be difficult. Yes, there is still an interesting recovery, but there is still a very large part of non-residents, Americans or others, who have a little bit of problems with vaccines, with ArriveCAN, so we are depriving ourselves of a lot of clientele and a lot of money for a region like ours, where the non-resident clientele is very important,” underlines Mr. Bouthillette.
The one who owns the outfitter Taggart Bay Lodge, in Laniel, indicates that many customers from outside Canada choose to cancel their stay when they see the content of the steps to enter the country.
“We have a lot of non-resident customers who come back with a big smile, but we have a very high rate of people who don’t show up at the last minute. I believe that the fear, the restrictions, the things they have to fulfill are all factors that put little spokes in the wheels of travellers. And probably the price of gas doesn’t help either. In good French, we have a little more than no show “, he observes.
A hard-to-replace clientele
As for Duparquet, the co-owner of Pourvoirie Fern, Réjean Béchard, maintains that the month of June 2022 will be less lucrative than usual due to the smaller number of American visitors who have come for fishing. However, he explains that it was the period of the spring bear hunt that was the most difficult.
“The United States side is still a bit complicated to get through customs. My bear hunt was completely ruined because of that, with the compulsory vaccination and the practically compulsory tests as well, it meant that we had to cancel almost all the trips of bears in April for rebook the resident customer. It’s not really better than last year for that,” he says.
” For example, a group of eight hunters who came here to outfitter, there were three quarters of them who were not vaccinated, so they completely canceled the ”trip”. That’s why it was harder, it’s especially the vaccine that hurts for customs. »
Mr. Béchard points out that it is difficult to replace American or Ontario customers with Quebec customers.
“Local clients are much harder to approach because clients from Quebec don’t need to go through an outfitter to hunt bears. Most people from Abitibi or Quebec can go through anyone to go bear hunting in the region, which is not the case for non-residents. So I don’t really rebooked the bear hunt for this year is another year to put a cross on. It’s a bit sad to see that our borders are not really open, ”he notes.
Lots of uncertainty
For his part, the president and general manager of the outfitter Lac la Truite, Noël Thibault, affirms that he is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel again, but that there is still a lot of uncertainty in this third year of the pandemic.
According to Mr. Thibault, certain categories of customers are more affected by the measures that are still in place to travel to Canada.
“What I understand is that the rules put in place to enter Canada for certain people who go easily to the computer, it can go more easily. But for other customers, older perhaps, there are groups who will simply postpone their trip until next year. These are not small groups, they are fairly large groups in terms of income. So, outfitters in remote areas, with external customers, especially from the United States, are still experiencing fairly serious problems for 2022, ”says the man who operates an establishment nearly 40 kilometers southeast of Belleterre.
Allow the purchase of land for long-term development
According to Yves Bouthillette, the main issue for outfitters in Quebec concerns the possibility for their operators to acquire the land on which they are installed.
“The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks has just released a grant program to help outfitters improve their infrastructure. However, at the same time, we want us to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on land that does not belong to us or that we cannot transfer back to private land, in the event that new regulations come to make the outfitter, for example, that we would no longer be able to fish for walleye,” he explains.
” What we are asking for is really the possibility for companies to develop, therefore to give them guarantees to invest somewhere by giving them the possibility of buying the land or letting them transform their lease commercial resort lease on a private resort lease. »
The owner of several outfitters says he is doing financially well, but believes that the next few years could be more difficult for some smaller businesses.
“We have lost a lot of money in recent years, but it’s more people who have a business, small families who live only from that. Them, I know that they had a lot of misery and they will have a lot of misery for several years before rebuilding a complete clientele and getting the turnover they were doing before the pandemic, ” indicates Mr. Bouthillette.