A Quebec university study found that nearly three years of the pandemic have had an effect on the travel habits of Quebecers: even with the partial or complete lifting of restrictions, they increasingly prefer to travel at home.

The most recent Cahier des tendances published by the Transat Chair in Tourism at the École des sciences de la gestion de l'UQAM revealed that inflation and health measures hurt many Quebecers.

"We can see that interest in travelling to Quebec has benefited," said Transat chair Marc-André Vachon. "Quebec companies and destinations, therefore, have a duty to provide interesting alternatives for those who choose Quebec as a travel destination."

And the proof is in the pudding: 33 per cent of respondents to a survey conducted last November by the chair had made a commercial stay of at least one night in their own region.

"This is good news because historically, Quebec has a negative tourism balance, meaning that more revenue leaves the province than returns," the researcher said. "If the tourism industry manages to retain a few Quebecers who used to go to the United States each year, that's a net gain. That's not counting the direct impact on climate change and sustainable tourism that we could get."


The Transat Chair in Tourism also revealed new travel habits of Quebecers, starting with the desire to combine the practical with the pleasant.

"In today's life, we want to perform well, to make the most of every moment," said Vachon. "The pandemic has led us to reflect on the place of work in our lives and the importance of travel for our mental health."

So the phenomena of 'leisure' (business and leisure) and 'workation' (work and vacation) are on the rise.

"People are incorporating more leisure into their travels: they are trying to telecommute to enjoy it for longer, or they are taking the family to visit after work. It's a flexibility that we have and that we are using more and more to our advantage," he said, adding that 17 per cent of those surveyed plan to extend a leisure trip thanks to teleworking and 10 per cent to extend a business trip for pleasure.

However, even if travellers' responsibilities become more important in the next few years, the game is far from won, Vachon believes.

"People are aware of the environmental impact of their travel," he said. "We also know that travelling has a positive impact on mental health, so we're torn between our mental health and the health of the planet."

In doing so, just 26 per cent of Quebec travellers surveyed said they were prepared to change the way they travel to combat climate change. Currently, 22 per cent of survey respondents chose an accommodation site or activity for its sustainable nature and barely 10 per cent paid to make their holiday carbon neutral.

"The tourism industry must therefore address the issue and provide easily accessible alternatives that would allow Quebec tourists to travel while limiting their carbon footprint," said Vachon.


Another trend observed by the chair is that of experimentation, i.e. in an attempt to respond to new problems caused by the pandemic, such as chaotic baggage management, delays in several flights, long delays in obtaining passports or booking difficulties, businesses in the tourism sector are trying out new practices that are now part of the visitor experience.

"We are ready as tourists for the organization to try things out," said Vachon. "We assume the risk because it's all about making things easier."

Travellers are even ready to collaborate in this wave of change in this "living laboratory," as Vachon calls it.

This is the trend of synergy, where the whole community is brought in to help develop the region as a tourist destination.

"As residents, we are also customers of our own region; we are, in fact, the first users, so it is important that the tourism offer suits us as well," said Vachon.

A fourth growing trend in tourism is the desire to connect with nature.

"It's a legacy of the pandemic to understand the role of nature in our lives," said Vachon. "We want to make our trip meaningful, and this contact with nature brings us back to ourselves."

The study conducted by the Chair in Tourism also revealed that 60 per cent of Quebecers who travelled in the province in 2022 carried out an outdoor activity during their stay.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 4, 2023.