This year will mark the 75th anniversary of the Association Hôtellerie du Québec (AHQ). The origin of the AHQ dates to 1949. After several name changes and a merger, the AHQ today has more
than 350 members, it is recognized as a sectoral association by the Ministry of Tourism and is now the official spokesperson for the industry in Quebec. Foodbuy spoke with Véronyque Tremblay, President, and CEO of the AHQ on what is happening within the Quebec market.

Profile shot of Véronyque Tremblay, President & CEO, AssociationHôtellerie du Québec

Véronyque Tremblay, President & CEO, Association
Hôtellerie du Québec

Tremblay said 2023 was a very good year as the province saw solid growth in occupancy and rates. This increase is mainly due to domestic travel. The pace slowed down in December compared to the previous year, but Winter Carnival boosted the numbers in February, at least in Quebec City. “Overall, Quebec hoteliers do not expect 2024 to be as strong but do expect a more modest growth rate. 2023 was a very good year, so matching that growth would be exceptional, especially in the context of an economic slowdown.”

Tremblay highlighted why prices increased. “As in other markets, costs have skyrocketed. Part of the price increases are linked to exploding costs, rising wages, and rising interest rates. However, the average room rate in some of Quebec’s key markets was well below that of competitive markets. Hoteliers have rebalanced their rates following the pandemic. In some cases, we have seen rates increase more quickly in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. I think we have now gone through this rebalancing process.”

Quebec recorded positive tourism figures, with domestic travel leading the way while business travel is still below pre-pandemic standards. This is not just a Quebec problem; The pandemic has changed international and business travel, and the entire industry is grappling with this new reality.

“We have told our members not to expect international travel to return to pre-pandemic levels for another two years.” Ms. Tremblay recently attended a meeting with other tourism associations and the provincial government, among others, to take stock of tourism in 2023 and examine Quebec’s tourism strategy. “The share of international tourists in Quebec was only 6% lower than in 2019, and their spending represented 17% of total tourism spending as international travelers tend to stay longer when they come to Quebec.”

Ms. Tremblay indicated that the AHQ worked on several files. “Last year we campaigned for major changes to the laws governing short-term rentals. For us, it is about the question of fairness. Illegal and unfair competition causes immense harm to our hoteliers, guesthouses and approved tourist residences who respect the laws.”

Since the adoption of the act concerning illegal tourist accommodation, it is now mandatory for all accommodation establishments to display their registration number, provided by the Corporation de l’industrie tourisme du Québec (CITQ), whose mandate is registration of accommodation establishments in Quebec.

The Association also advocates for the continuation of the province’s financial programs that help hoteliers with securing reduced interest rates for expansions, renovations, and new technological improvements. “The budget will be released in March, and we hope this support continues. We want to maintain the reputation and importance of hoteliers in Quebec.”

Regarding costs, Tremblay points to issues like outdated regulations regarding swimming pools, which date back more than 40 years. In Quebec (the only province affected), a hotel must always have a lifeguard on duty if it has a swimming pool. “This year, some inspectors closed pools down because there was no lifeguard on duty. Even if a pool sees two or three guests a day, they still need to employ a lifeguard. It adds costs and in today’s world we have technology solutions that can help us here.”

Tremblay also suggested that they study the regulations regarding dogs. A study is currently underway on the habits and motivations of tourists traveling with their dogs, and will identify the issues and challenges linked to this booming type of tourism, as well as good practices…“Many customers want to travel with their dogs, but they do not want to leave their dog in the room when they go to a restaurant or on a terrace for example. We are looking at the possibility of requesting relaxations to the current regulations while respecting the hotel’s decision to accept or not accept pets.”

The AHQ also places a lot of emphasis on sustainable development and offers various support programs to help hoteliers improve their practices in this area. Foodbuy recently participated in the AHQ annual conference and trade show to support the AHQ’s advocacy efforts in support of the Quebec hospitality industry.

This is an excerpt from the Foodbuy 2024 Hotel Guide. To read the guide, click here.

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