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The aerial Explore Québec program 

This page is for tour operators, receptives and tour operators interested in participating in the aerial Explore Québec Program. If you are a traveller looking for Explore Québec on-road or air packages or would like to consult all participating travel agencies, a new portal is now available: Click here
 

Currently, only a few air packages on Îles de la Madeleine and Anticosti are available with air discounts. As soon as the health situation allows, new packages will be available via this mode of transport.   


Explore Québec program is now available

in the air and  on the road 

For full details of both programs, please click on the buttons above. 

Four calls for proposals will be held per year, in February, May, July and September. 

First call for proposals: any interested agencies will have from January 20 until February 28, 2020, at 5 p.m., to submit a competitively priced package proposal. The selected packages will be offered to consumers at a reduced rate through an Explore Québec grant in an effort to increase sales.

Access to affordable air travel is a major issue in Québec and one of the biggest challenges for the tourism industry. Because of this, the Ministère du Tourisme is establishing a program that will make it easier for tourists to visit Québec's remote tourist regions by promoting competitively priced travel packages. In doing so, it hopesto increase tourism in the targeted regions and surrounding areas.

The Explore Québec program offers tourists a rdiscount of 25% to 50% on the cost of airfare to any destination in a remote region of Québec when purchased as apackage deal from selected Québec travel agencies, tour operators and receptiveagencies.

The Ministère du Tourisme has entrustedthe management of Explore Québec to the Receptive Tour Operators and Travel Agencies Association of Québec (ARF-Québec), its privileged partner for the developting and marketing travel packages in Québec.

Introduce Québec to more tourists from outside of Québecby offering discounted travel packages in collaboration with regional and national economic organizations. The Program also aims to increase tourist spending in the targeted regions and surrounding areas.​​​​​​

More precisely, the Program’s objectives are to:

  • Increase demand in response to a good offer.
  • Promote lower airfares to certain targeted regions.
  • Help extend the tourist season in regions with high seasonality.

While also encouraging agencies to offer discounted travel packagesto remote regions.

The program will endon March 31, 2023, or when the available budget has been exhausted, whichever comes first.

Eligible agencies

  • Travel agencies;
  • Tour operators;
  • Receptiveagencies that holda licence from the Office de la protection du consommateur;

Agencies holding a restricted licence from the Office de la protection du consommateur are not eligible.

Eligible agencies may form a partnership and submit a joint application.

Agencies with experience in the region coveredby the package or that have already offered a familiarization tour in the saidregionwill be prioritized..

Eligibility in and of itself does not  guarantee funding forthe agency or any obligation on the part of ARF-Québec or the Ministère du Tourisme.
 

Non-eligible agencies

  • Municipal entities;
  • Crown corporations;
  • Québec government departments and agencies;
  •  Government of Canada departments and agencies.
     

Eligible projects

Packages aimed at marketing one of the following tourism regions:

  • Gaspésie;
  • Bas-Saint-Laurent;
  • Îles-de-la-Madeleine;
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean;
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue;
  • Côte-Nord (Duplessis and Manicouagan);
  • Eeyou Istchee James Bay;
  • Nunavik.

The packages must:

  • include air  travelto the tourism region covered byby the package; 
  • include a minimum two-nights’ stay in the tourism region  coveredby the package;
  • include at least two flagship attractions in the region coveredby the package, that align with one of the experiences highlighted by  the Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec:
    • Life of the St. Lawrence River,
    • Local flavours,
    • Vibrant cities and festivals,
    • Living culture and history,
    • Outdoor adventures,
    • Winter fun,
    • Discovery roads,
    • Hunting and fishing; 
  • Allow Québec to be explored year-round by extendingthe peak season for regions with high seasonality. The dates of stay in the following regions:Gaspésie, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, must exclude July and August. However, some packages meeting very specific needs may constitute an exception and be accepted by the selection committee during this  period of high seasonality. There is no restriction on the dates of stay in any other regions.
  • A package that combines either Gaspésie, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Îles-de-la-Madeleineor Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean with any of the other 4 regions would have no restrictions on the dates of stay.
  • Beintended for independent travellers and groups based on  regionalrealities  and the maturity level of the travellers;
  • Be marketed by the agency;
  • Include commercial flights rather than chartered flights, whenever possible. Proof of purchase of air service is required.
  • All suppliers must follow Public Health health guidelines and guidelines in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and all suppliers present in your packages must be open and must offer the same services as those sold.
  • All suppliers of nature or adventure activities must hold the Aventure Écotourisme Québec “Qualité Sécurité” seal or be in the process of obtaining it.

Packages that include the following criteriawill be prioritized as a showcase product : 

  • showcase the flagship products and unique experiences in the targeted regions that stand out from other regions;
  • be customizable, giving customers the option to add additional nights or activities; 
  • promote the development of tourism services;
  • offer longer says;
  • constitute a new package;
  • reach the Alliance de l'industrie touristique du Québec’starget markets outside of Québec in addition to other markets with high potential depending on targeted niches or seasons..
  • Showcase products are travelpackages that will have greater visibility in any marketing campaigns launched by the Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec and the regional tourism associations.

Submitting an application

  • Agencies hoping to obtain financial assistance must submit a formal application by completing the required forms and providing the required supporting documents.
  • ARF-Québec will confirm the eligibility of the agency.
  • The agency will receive an acknowledgement of receipt within ten business days of submitting their application.
  • ARF-Québec accepts applications for financial assistance four times a year.
     

For 2020:

    • 1st call for proposals: from January 20 to February 28, 2020;
    • 2nd call for proposals: May 2020; 
    • 3rd call for proposals: July 2020; 
    • 4th call for proposals: September 2020.;

The agency cansubmit a package proposal for eitherthe current or followingyear.
 

Application evaluation

The projects will be evaluated using a grading scale(available for download at the bottom of this page). 

A selection committee, along with a representative from the targeted Association touristique régionale will evaluate the projects based on the established criteria. The selection committee will include a representative from both the Ministère du Tourisme and, the Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec, as well as the Explore Québec program manager from ARF-Québec.

Application process stages:

  • Program manager receives the packages (by February 28, 2020, at the latest)
  • Program managerevaluates the packages (between March 9-13, 2020)
  • Packages are submitted to the appropriateAssociation Touristique Régionales (ATR) for comment (between March 13-20, 2020)
  • Packages are evaluated by the selection committee (between March 23-27, 2020)
  • Selected packages are validated by the selection committee (March 27)

Letters are signed by the Ministère du Tourisme (between March 30 and April 10, 2020)

Only complete applications will be evaluated.
 

Promotion

Promotion must be done by the agency itself. However, the Association Touristique régionale (ATR) and the Alliance de l’industrie touristique du Québec (Alliance) in collaboration with ARF-Québec and the Ministère du Tourisme (MTO) will be involved with marketing any “showcase” travel packages.

  • Promotion of the Explore Québec program: ARF-Québec and MTO;
  • Promotion of travel packages within Québec: ATR, the selected agency and ARF-Québec (collaboration);
  • Promotion of travel packages outside of Québec: Alliance, ATR, the selected agency and ARF-Québec (collaboration).
     

Application approval

The financial assistance granted will be subject to an agreement between ARF-Québec and the agency. It will specify the description of the project, the aid granted, the payment terms for this assistance, and the supporting documents that must be provided.
 

Financial assistance

The financial assistance that is being offered is in the form of a grant. 

Taking into account the operating procedures of the program, the stacking of government assistance does not apply.

The financial assistance granted to the agency will be used in its entirety to sell the proposed package at a reduced rate.

In the first year, the financial assistance granted for each package sold with domestic flights withinQuébec will be approximately 50% of the average airfare for each region, and will be a fixed amount depending on the tourist regioncovered by the package, see the costbreakdown below:

  • Gaspésie: $250;
  • Bas-Saint-Laurent: $250;
  • Îles-de-la-Madeleine: $250;
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue: $250;
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean: $250;
  • Côte-Nord:  
    • Duplessis:  $750  (Sept-Îles: $250);
    • Manicouagan: $250;
  • Eeyou Istchee James Bay: $550;
  • Nunavik: $1,200

In the first year, the financial assistance granted for each package sold with flights from outside of Québec will be approximately 25% of the average airfare for each region, and will be a fixed amount depending on the tourist regioncovered by the package, see the costbreakdown below:

  • Gaspésie: $125;
  • Bas-Saint-Laurent: $125
  • Îles-de-la-Madeleine: $125;
  • Abitibi-Témiscamingue: $125;
  • Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean: $125;
  • Côte-Nord:
    • Duplessis: $375  (Sept-Îles: $125);.
    • Manicouagan: $125;
  • Eeyou Istchee James Bay: $275;
  • Nunavik: $6 000.

If necessary, the amount established for each region may be adjusted by the Management Committee.

A package including a one-way trip to a region and a return trip from a different region will be awarded half of the financial assistance provided for each covered region . The amount granted will then correspond to the sum of these two amounts.  

The financial assistance per customer must not exceed the total price of the airfare.  

The agency must indicate its projected sales potential. Based on the sales predictions submitted and the available budget, a selection committee will determine the financial assistance that will be allocated to the agency.

The selected package will receive financial assistance for at least one year. There is a possibility of renewal if the results reach a certain sales threshold that has beendetermined by the program’s management committee. A mechanism to reallocate the allocated financial assistance will be used if the agency does not meet the determined thresholds.

Upon the exhaustion of the financial assistance allocated to the agency, the packages can then be sold at normal rates.

Financial assistance cannot be increased to compensate for any cost overruns.

The Ministère du Tourisme will subsidize no more than the total number of packages established in the financial assistance agreement.  If the agency wishes to increase its grant, it must contact ARF-Québec to validate the availability of the financial assistance.
 

Payments terms

Financial assistance will be paid monthly based on an up-to-date sales statement and proof of customer air travel.
 

General management terms

The total amount of financial assistance awarded under this program is $9.5 million, divided as follows: 

  • $1 million for 2019-2020;
  • $2 million for 2020-2021;
  • $3 million for 2021-2022;
  • $3.5 million for 2022-2023.

To ensure the efficient operation and success of the program, ARF-Québec may consult with the Ministère du Tourisme to adjust certain parameters of this program annually. Ministerial approval may be required for any financial changes.

Upon reviewing the applications, the selection committee will then determine the number of packages selected in each eligible region, which could allow for  several products or seasons to be packaged by region.

ARF-Québec may refuse to grant financial assistance or suspend it if the agency no longer meets the criteria that made the project eligible or if it fails to fulfil any contractual obligations.

Until the program end date, packages may be modified to adapt to the market or the tourist offerings in the region. If necessary, the agency may be required to demonstrate the need for these adjustments to the selection committee.

The agency must manage the assembly, promotion, sale and after-sales service of the packages being offered. The agencies are compensated by selling packages.

The agency must ask consumers if they agree to be surveyed by the Ministère du Tourisme and, if necessary, provide ARF-Québec with their contact information.

The agency must display the Explore Québec logo on any documents intended for promotion within Québec.
 

Expected results

The assessment of achieved objectives will include the following indicators:

  1. Increased demand in response to a good offer: 
    • Growth in the number of accommodation units occupied in each region;
    • Growth in the number of tourists arriving from outside of the region;
    • Increase in the ratio of the number of tourists benefiting from the program compared to the average number of tourists for the reference period (2013-2018).
  2. Lower airfares to targeted regions: 
    • Decrease in the average monthly airfare per region compared to the average monthly fare in 2018.
  3. Extension of the tourist season for regions with high seasonality: 
    • Increase in the number of units occupied monthly by region from September to May.

First call for proposals:The Receptive Tour Operators and Travel Agencies Association of Québec (ARF-Québec) will be accepting package proposals until February 28, 2020, at 5 p.m.

Please download the following documents:

Request for financial assistance - Form 1 - Information about the organization

Request for financial assistance - Form 2 - Information about the package

Grading scale - Explore Québec Program 

It needs to be sent to Marc-André Plouffe at explorequebec@arfquebec.com 

Receptive Tour Operators and Travel Agencies Association of Québec
Marc-André Plouffe - Explore Québec Manager
explorequebec@arfquebec.com

 

Direction des relations partenariales
Ministère du Tourisme

Phone:418 643-5959, ext. 3421
Toll-free: 1 800 482-2433
relations_affaires@tourisme.gouv.qc.ca

 

  • Are all flights in a package eligible for the subsidy? 
    • No, only one flight (return or one-way) per package and only the one to the region.

 

  • If my application is not accepted, can I adapt it before the deadline?
    • Yes, with the understanding that it will have been analyzed by the manager before the deadline. The complete file will have to be sent in advance to allow the manager to analyze it.

 

  • Are both the Explore Quebec program and the “Air Access” discount are compatible ?
    • ·Yes it’s possible to combine both of them.  Air Canada confirmed that it is feasible for the travel trade partners to get the discount for the stop in Montreal.  The tour operator or the receptive operator has to register with his Air Canada sales representative to get the special rate.  This is not possible to get this discount for flight only, it has to be combined with other items like hotel, car rental or attractions.  See all the detail by clicking on the link below.

 

  • How will I get the discount concretely ($) as a receptive (if we are not the ones buying the flights)?
    • We will need to receive the copy of the airline ticket and the customer's invoice with the monthly report and we will send the amount of the financial assistance directly to the receptive agency.  The latter will then be able to reimburse the TO or give him/her a credit.

 

  • Are only airports in the regions of Quebec covered by the program eligible? 
    • Yes, with one exception, Wabush airport.

 

  • Can I do an "open jaw" with an arrival in one region and departure in another?
    • Yes, as long as both airports are in eligible regions of the program.  The subsidy will be 50% per region if the amount is not the same in both regions.

 

 

  • Are all flights in a package eligible for the discount? 
    • No, only one flight (roundtrip or one-way) per package—the flight that arrives and/or departs from the eligible region.
  • If my application is rejected, can I make changes to it before the deadline?
    • Yes, with the understanding that it has been reviewed by the manager before the deadline. The completed application must be sent out in advance so that the manager can review it.

 

  • Can the Explore Québec program and the “Air Access” discounts be combined?
    • Yes, it is possible to combine them. Air Canada confirmed that travel trade partners canapply fortheMontréal stopover discount. The tour operator or the receptive agency must register with their Air Canada sales representative to get the special rate. It is not possible to get this discount for the flight only, it must be combined with other items such as accommodation, car rental or attractions. See all the details by clicking the link below.

 

  • How will inbound tour operators receive the discount ($) (if they are not the ones buying the flights)?
    • We will require a copy of the customer’s airline ticket and invoice along with the monthly report.Once this is received, we will send the financial assistance amount directly to the receptive agency who will thenreimburse or credit the TO.

 

  • Are only airports in the designated Québec regions covered by the program eligible? 
    • Yes, except forWabush airport.

 

  • Can I purchase an open-jaw flight that arrives in one region and departs from another?
    • Yes, as long as both airports are covered under the program’s eligible regions. A 50% discount will be applied per region if the amount is not the same in both regions.

 

  • Is it mandatory for the Québec agency or the inbound tour operator to purchase the airline ticket or can the customer oragency do it themselves?
    • The airline ticket doesn’t need to be purchased by the Québec agency orinbound tour operator. Financial assistance will still be provided if all other criteria are met.

If you wish to be part of a Explore Québec package, we invite you to contact the participating agencies. 

Click here to view the current list.

Following the approval of your plans, you must: 

  • Ensure your clients are residents of Quebec 
    Since the program was designed by the Government of Quebec to stimulate tourism within Quebec, you must ensure that your clients are residents of Quebec. We ask you to validate the identity of your customers, at the time of purchase, by requesting a proof of residence in Quebec by reservation (driver’s license, Hydro-Québec bill, tax bill, cellular bill, etc.).

    This evidence will be requested in your claim for reimbursement from the ARF. 
  • You ensure that your company and your suppliers comply with current health measures.
    To do so, you will have to send us your health care plan and your employer’s commitment to compliance. We also advise you to add this text on your website by having previously made all the necessary checks:

    “Our agency is committed to respecting and enforcing all measures and instructions issued by the Institut national de la santé publique du Québec, which are part of our Covid-19 response plan. The service providers used in the Explore Québec packages have also signed this commitment to comply with health measures. It is our responsibility to ensure that service providers are open at the time of the client’s travel. The Agency reserves the right to modify packages in the event of the closure or non-reopening of providers initially included, by offering customers equivalent solutions.”

    Note that Regional Tourism Associations can guide you when opening each of your suppliers.

  • Display the Explore Québec discount on your site and your invoices 
    The discount must be visible on your displays (website, brochures ...) and on the invoice. The discount must be applied BEFORE the taxes are calculated. For example: $1,000 (before tx) – $250 (Explore Quebec discount) = $750 + taxes.
     
  • Display the Explore Québec logo on your Explore Québec packages

    Click here to download the logo.

  • Write this sentence on your invoice to the customer
    "This Explore Québec sur la route package is available thanks to financial support from the Ministry of Tourism."

  • Details: On Measure
    You can, from the packages accepted as part of Explore Québec, customize the package for customers who request it. You do not need to have your stay approved in this case. The discount applies on the total selling price before taxes, as explained above, and not just on the package previously accepted under EQ.