Each year, half a million people visit Percé, Quebec. — a city at the eastern end of the Gaspé Peninsula — to go whale watching in Forillon National Park, swim in the Rivière-aux-Émeraudes or soak up the salt spray from the beach and the boardwalk facing the he city’s namesake: a huge pierced rock sitting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The municipal director, Jean-François Kacou, affirms that it is very expensive for Percé to maintain its tourist offer and its infrastructures while developing new attractions. Rather than taxing its residents more, the municipality has decided to pass some of this cost on to visitors.
“At the end of the day, we have 3,500 citizens carrying Percé Rock on their backs,” Kacou said.
“That’s why we came up with this solution which we think is fair and reasonable for citizens and also tourists,” he said.
The new bylaw, which must be approved at a council meeting on September 28, will be enforced by local businesses and will come into effect in early May 2022. Restaurants, tourist attractions and souvenir shops will add $1 fee for non-residents with every transaction over $10 and hotel stays for tourists will cost an additional $1 per night.
Provincially and federally regulated items such as tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and gasoline will be exempt from the additional charge. Kacou says Percé hopes to bring in $1.5 million in additional revenue each year.
“When you see our budget, it’s very difficult to reach the end… without taxing the inhabitants,” he said.
“Basically, we charge visitors because we have a huge amount of infrastructure…maintenance costs and operating expenses.”
Local hotel owner Jean-François Gagné says he would have preferred a formal tax, similar to what’s in place at destinations like Mont-Tremblant, but says he’s fine with the idea in his outfit.
Gagné owns the Auberge au Pic de l’Aurore, on the main highway in Gaspé, and he is convinced that the increase of a dollar will not scare anyone away.
“The thing about tourist attractions…you have to improve every year, people expect more,” he said.
“It’s not something that will make you decide not to come to Percé…and we will have more to offer them with the help of this dollar.
Kacou agrees and says the new policy aims to create a reciprocal relationship between Percé and those who enjoy visiting.
“Do you like us? We like you too, but we want to offer you new services and improve the quality of your visit.”