Travel responsibly and sustainably

2020 Season Review

Dune du Nord (North Dune) Beach

Îles de la Madeleine, September 30, 2020 — It should not come as a surprise that Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine painted a mixed picture of the 2020 season during its annual general assembly.

Given the current circumstances involving the COVID-19 pandemic, the arrival of about 29,500 visitors (from early July to mid-September, based on the available data) is seen as a relief by the tourism industry. In fact, most businesses recognized that the traffic exceeded their expectations. The succession of bad news throughout the spring made everyone fear the worst.

The cancellation of the CTMA cruise season and the international cruises;
• The limit of 35,000 visitors over the summer set by the regional public health authorities;
• The 50% capacity limitation for the ferry;
• The confusion about the necessary authorizations to drive through the Maritimes;
• The lack of services in the Maritimes making the accessibility of the archipelago even more of a problem;
• The late-June opening of the destination to visitors.

Air transportation strengthened the season with a number of visitors similar to 2019, that is about 10,500 travellers (from early-July to late September). As for marine transportation, despite the significant drop to comply with the limit set by the public health authorities, approximately 19,000 visitors went through often difficult driving and travelling conditions to get to the archipelago.

In spite of this relief and the feeling of having "saved the season," the 50% drop in the 2020 summer traffic will go down in history. We need to look all the way back to 1996 for such a low tourism traffic—that is before the arrival of the NM Madeleine.

This will inevitably lead to various consequences for the businesses with substantial variations, depending on the sector. The survey conducted in Québec by the Chair in Tourism revealed that the camping, vacation homes, agrotourism and outdoor adventure sectors did not experience a season as hard as the festivals and events, the cultural businesses, the restaurants and the bed and breakfasts and hotels did.

As visitors needed to be well informed and reassured before their departure, we noted a 220% increase in the number of emails and phones calls to the Tourist Information Desk. However, the Tourist Information Desk noted a 37% drop in summer traffic given its late-June opening date. According to the statistics compiled by the Tourist Information Desk, 64% of visitors came to the Islands for the first time this summer, while 76% of visitors spent anywhere between 6 to 16 nights on the archipelago. It also appears that they all fell in love with the destination, and many even mentioned plans to come back next year.

A business in the Magdalen Islands
The warm welcome of the Madelinots
A plane in the Magdalen Islands
The warm welcome of the Madelinots
The application of sanitary measures
The warm welcome of the Madelinots
Boarding the ferry to the Magdalen Islands

Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine would like to highlight the capability of the cultural stakeholders to adapt and innovate, just as they do with their offering. The team at Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine would also like to thank all the tourism businesses for their efforts in complying with the sometimes complex and demanding health regulations.

In this regard, it should be noted that Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine partnered with the Municipality of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the local CISSS to launch an awareness campaign directed at all visitors, families and friends coming to the archipelago. The video and short messages included in this campaign were broadcasted on the local radio and put forward throughout the entire summer season.

Quick facts about the survey conducted by Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine: 

  • 75% of the respondents noted a drop in tourism traffic;
  • The visitor spending was stable for 33% of the respondents;
  • Most businesses (76%) noted a drop in their sales due to low tourism traffic. For 59% of the respondents, sales dropped by more than 20%;
  • 23% of the tourism businesses surveyed noted a drop in local customer volumes;
  • The decreasing number of jobs from 2019 to 2020, with a 32% drop for full-time jobs and a 15% drop for part-time jobs.

Sampling period: September 21, 2020 to September 30, 2020. Number of respondents: 88 

Without the government support deemed necessary by half of the tourism businesses, most of them would not have reached the break-even point. The industry anxiously awaits a fall and a winter season that has already proven difficult with a sharp decline in tourism and business customer traffic, the cancellation of various conventions and the substantial increase in the number of COVID cases on the archipelago.

Many businesses mentioned having trouble recruiting workers, which often leads to reorganizing schedules or cancelling services. The workforce and customer experience components pose a significant challenge for the industry. Accordingly, accessing financial assistance programs will be key for all the businesses who were severely impacted by the pandemic, as it will help them get through the winter and back on their feet for the next season.

Tourism remains one of the two economic drivers for both the development and vitality of the territory, with at-destination visitor spending of about 90 million dollars in 2019. The 50% drop will leave scars in the industry. The destination hopes to quickly get back to a traffic as good as the one seen over the last years.

However, a qualitative approach for the number of visitors (as opposed to a quantitative approach), all-season niche products and a sustainable development perspective will be critical for all stakeholders to have a common vision of the tourism development. To this end, Tourisme Îles de la Madeleine invites everyone involved in the tourism industry, as well as every member of the community, to take part in the activities surrounding the next tourism strategy of the destination.


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For more information:
Michel Bonato, directeur général
Tel.: (418) 986 2245, ext. 225 / Email:

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Please note that all visitors aged 13 and over must pay a fee of $30 before leaving the archipelago for departures between May 1st and October 14th, 2024. Read more