Involving the Whole Community in Shaping a Sustainable Destination

Currently, Jason and his team at the DMO work under a marketing strategy focusing on nature, culture and food.

Îles de la Madeleine, Québec, is a predominately French-speaking archipelago composed of 6 islands with a population of 12,500 residents with an economy built on fishing and the culture of seasonal tourism. This brings in an average of 70,000 visitors per year.

Îles de la Madeleine, Québec, is a predominately French-speaking archipelago composed of 6 islands with a population of 12,500 residents with an economy built on fishing and the culture of seasonal tourism. This brings in an average of 70,000 visitors per year.

Currently, Jason and his team at the DMO work under a marketing strategy focusing on nature, culture and food, and pride themselves as a Creative Friendly Destination with certification from the Creative Tourism Network in 2016. In 2020 Îles de la Madeleine was also recognised as one of National Geographic's Best Trips due to the harp seal observation tours.

In 2006 Îles de la Madeleine developed their current development policy, (updated in 2018) in order to reduce friction between businesses amongst the islands. Due to the steady increase of visitors, friction came up again during July and August of 2020.

The next strategy takes into consideration Îles de la Madeleine's approach to tourism – the quality of life of the population. How did they get to that point? How do you design a strategy that will satisfy the population and the tourism industry? Jason shares their process.

Involving the Municipality, Committee, DMO and Citizens

They held public consultations on tourism through online surveys and public activities, alongside meeting with stakeholders in order to truly understand what it is people need and organising priority. The results at the time were to focus on waste management, water, recreational infrastructure and housing.

With this in mind, Îles de la Madeleine began working with UQAM to curate the marketing strategy. This was halted due to the impact of the pandemic. After the summer season discussions started again, another round of consultations began to review the impact of the season. This led to a new set of focus tasks thanks to the pandemic revealing holes in the previously curated strategy:

  1. Territory management
  2. Human heritage and quality of life
  3. Become a climate-conscious destination
  4. Developing 4 season niche tourism
  5. Tourism Intelligence

In October they continued work with the tourism industry to evaluate products and experiences for the rest of the year. Working closely with hoteliers and restaurateurs, Jason and the DMO asked for input on their own projects in order to properly align their own projected products with the developing marketing strategy of the DMO.

Jason explains how the DMO is currently working on a very hands-on approach in communicating with interested visitors as well as local businesses. This involves newsletter surveys and Exit Survey data to figure out how they'll start to market these projects asking what the perception of the islands are during the off-seasons.

This process has been the combined efforts of everyone involved, pulling together in the same direction to improve the quality of services for tourists as well as locals.

Co-Creation and Community

Dominic explains that as a researcher, destinations are complex to transform. Tourism is an industry that involves many factors that are constantly shifting focus. As an example, restaurants shift between being catering for local and visitors depending on the season.

These services and the clusters of businesses they include are the network webs that are being analysed in order to renovate this new marketing scheme. Everything is intertwined, and as such you have to break away from the dichotomy of tourism and non-tourism businesses in order to thoroughly discuss how businesses interact.

In terms of strategy planning, you have to consider how to sustain the way of life and environment so that tourism can appeal to as many people as possible.

If a destination erodes the quality of life of the residents then it will face workforce issues, it will face recruitment issues. On the other side, if the residents start to have hard feelings about tourism, then the welcoming that makes tourism interesting erodes instead

The process is all about learning from history and other sources, creating as large of a pool of information as possible. Taking information out of the context of business and seeing the extended impact in order to include as many stakeholders as possible.

The philosophy behind the research with Îles de la Madeleine is going to co-create a hybrid plan involving all stakeholders to increase budgets and attract richer thoughts for products, strategies and policies.


Key Takeaways

1. Work alongside communities as a form of integrated feedback in order to truly understand the market and their needs and how they would want to achieve it

2. Have an open mind in order to consider all connected partners including out of industry networks to ensure a fully sustainable strategy that positively impacts all industries effected

Published on:
December 2020
About the contributor

Dominic Lapointe

Dominic Lapointe is a professor in the Department of Urban and Tourism Studies at Université du Québec à Montréal. He holds the Chaire de recherche sur les dynamiques touristiques et les relations socioterritoriales and leaders of the Groupe de recherche et d’intervention tourisme territoire et société (GRITTS) at UQAM. 



Jason Bent 

Jason works as a Tourism Cluster Manager in the Iles de la Madeleine, an archipelago located in Eastern Canada. He coordinates collaborative projects that bring added-value benefits to the targeted businesses.