October 19, 2017
Nancy Houley: Passionate about life and the cruise industry
Each Saint Lawrence port of call employs a number of individuals dedicated to destination development. Québec is no exception to the rule! In 2012, Nancy Houley joined the team at the Port of Québec as Director, Cruise Development. Since this time, she has combined her extensive business development experience and her passion for people - and life in general - to transform Québec into a must see cruise destination. We recently had occasion to sit down with her and would like to share with you the substance of our meeting.
- First and foremost, Nancy, tell us a little about the history of passenger cruises at Québec.
Passenger cruises and Québec go back a long time. During major migrations to our shores and prior to the development of commercial aviation, Québec welcomed considerable numbers of cruise ships. Towards the end of the 1980s, cruise industry appeal once again began to grow. Efforts were devoted to presenting Québec as a destination of choice for cruise lines. Local officials came to recognize the positive impact of cruise ship visits and were convinced that Québec had much to offer cruise ship passengers. Indeed, the city was honoured to be the first urban centre north of Mexico to join the ranks of UNESCO world heritage sites.
With a cruise terminal located adjacent to Old Québec, this development project had everything required to succeed. Several obstacles nonetheless needed to be overcome before the city could figure regularly on cruise line itineraries. Focusing on autumn colours, we approached cruise lines about detouring via the Saint Lawrence — Québec in particular — and taking advantage of repositioning capacity in the period between the end of the summer cruise season in Europe and start of the winter cruise season in the Caribbean. Initiatives by port and tourism authorities, with support from Cruise the Saint Lawrence, enabled Québec to position itself favourably. We are now pleased to rank among those ports of call with the best customer appreciation comments from cruise operators the likes of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line.
- You are also a member of the board of directors of Cruise the Saint Lawrence. What is the nature of your role and what are the goals that you seek to achieve during your term in office?
I joined the board of directors of Cruise the Saint Lawrence upon my arrival in the summer of 2012 and have occupied the post of vice-president since last spring. What is of greatest importance to me is that all ports of call group their efforts to reach our common goal of 1 million cruise ship passengers annually by 2027. I intend to focus on building sound business relations with cruise lines and developing bonds of trust with cruise itinerary planners for the ultimate benefit of all ports of call. It is my firm belief that we are in possession of all we need to succeed in reaching our goal.
- What fascinates you or what do you especially enjoy about your day-to-day work?
My fascination lies with the cruise industry itself which enables one to promote places dear to one’s heart, places that are part and parcel of one’s culture, places that define a people and who they are. To date, I have witnessed very few industries where one can relate so closely to the products on offer. We literally sell our attachment to our destination and our corner of the country. I have come to realize that I can play a part in bringing about positive change for our community, while providing added exposure for the region as a whole. It is gratifying to assume the role of intermediary between cruise lines and regional tourism service providers.
- In your opinion, what are the key attributes of Destination Saint Lawrence and Québec for both cruise ship passengers and cruise line operators?
Firstly, I would say that our French culture is a prize asset that charms visitors time and again. Then there is the diversity of our offerings from one port of call to the next which enables cruise lines to draw up diverse, interesting cruise itineraries certain to appeal. I further believe that our historic past plays an important role in passenger appreciation as visitors can follow in the footsteps of the early explorers who discovered North America by ship.
The warm, welcoming ways of Québecers also constitute a major destination asset. In meetings with clients abroad, we are frequently apprised of Québec’s excellent reputation in industry circles. It is heartwarming to realize that our celebrated visitor welcome enables business individuals to become better known and enjoy enhanced exposure at the international level.
- Is your port of call planning any development projects aimed at cruise ship passengers?
This summer, we had the pleasure of inaugurating the all new Place des Canotiers. This park, situated adjacent to the cruise terminal, doubtless embellishes the cruise passenger experience. In early October, we also inaugurated Paquet Pier (Pier 81) at Lévis. The addition of this location allows us to enhance customer experience while expanding our capacity on the Saint Lawrence for the benefit of all ports of call.
In terms of business development, we are devoting considerable energy to positioning our port of call as an ideal family destination. As beautiful and bursting with colour as the fall season may be, activities in summer are varied and abundant.
- What personal activity favourites would you recommend to cruise ship passengers?
It would be difficult to choose one favourite for destination Québec. Having had the pleasure and privilege of touring each of the Saint Lawrence ports of call, I can assure you that our destination has everything cruise passengers could want no matter which region of the world they call home. Whether they are interested in things urban, history, local traditions, countryscapes or the great outdoors, Destination Saint Lawrence and Québec have it all!
- What would you like to see during the upcoming cruise season?
What I would most like is for each visiting cruise passenger to tell ten of his or her friends about his or her experiences. This would go a long way towards enhancing the notoriety of Canada/New England and Destination Saint Lawrence itineraries. What is more, I have every faith that by relying on our business model and our creativity, we can grow our destination exponentially over the next twenty years!
In closing, we wish to thank Nancy Houley for sharing her passion and enthusiasm regarding cruse development at Québec and across the Saint Lawrence region. Like us, you have doubtless been touched by Nancy’s energy and joie de vivre. We wish her every success going forward!