April 23, 2011
Interview with a passionate cruise aficionado
We propose an interview with a colourful, dynamic individual from Saguenay. Ghislain Harvey is Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Saguenay Port Authority, as well as President and Chief Executive Officer of Promotion Saguenay.
Mr Harvey, how long have you been involved in the world of cruiseshipping?
I was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Promotion Saguenay by the City of Saguenay in 2004. Promotion Saguenay is the local organization responsible for overseeing economic, city centre and Bagotville airport development. The cruiseshipping component of regional tourism development thus falls under the responsibility of Promotion Saguenay. Previous to my current position, I managed the La Baie/Chicoutimi Municipal Housing Bureau. I also served as a Liberal MNA from 1973 to 1977.
What is it about your job that you especially enjoy?
Actually, I derive tremendous satisfaction from the wonderful team of individuals with whom I interact on a daily basis and who are passionate about city and regional development! I am particularly fond of spearheading new projects which enable the city to progress economically. In my position, I regularly meet with individuals from Montréal, Québec and Ottawa to negotiate and spur development initiatives. My experience in politics serves me well in this regard.
What are Saguenay’s key cruiseshipper attributes?
At the risk of being accused of exaggeration, I shall proudly reply that Saguenay has the most beautiful cruise terminal in Canada! We also boast a warm, welcoming team of individuals devoted to meeting and surpassing cruiseshipper expectations. In addition, we have major international calibre attractions such as Saguenay National Park, the pride of the region. Then there is Val-Jalbert Historic Village which was recently revamped to the tune of $20 million, and which provides visitors not only with a fascinating insight into the region’s industrial history but also with access to Ouiatchouan Falls, higher than their famed counterparts at Niagara. Visitors marvel time and again at the spectacular, glassed-in platform overlooking the falls.
What is Saguenay planning in terms of cruiseshipper-specific development?
We are hard at work to boost the number of ships calling into port at Saguenay. Hence we are consistently enhancing infrastructure with a view to becoming the most appealing port of call in Québec. We are currently building a new portside village adjacent to the welcome pavilion. This project, estimated at some $15 million, will be inaugurated in the fall of 2012. In cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, we are also seeking to move forward with several new attractions designed to further diversify the tourism supply.
How many cruiseshippers annually transit through Saguenay?
The year 2012 is shaping up to be a record year with 24 cruise ships and over 44 000 passengers and crew members scheduled to call in at port. What is more, this year we will top the100 000 mark in terms of aggregate number of passengers having transited through Saguenay since the inception of cruiseship market development in the region.
In your opinion, which activity would you deem an absolute must for cruiseshippers stopping in at Saguenay?
Our La Fabuleuse extravaganza which features over 250 volunteer performers. Together, the latter relate the history and development of the Kingdom of Saguenay. The show is an absolute must. Production scope and size impress every time. In recent years, English and Italian versions have been developed to respond to cruiseshipper needs.
What is your favourite port of call restaurant?
All those who know me well know how fond I am of a restaurant by the name of Chez Georges, a steakhouse located in the city centre. The cuisine is excellent, seasoned to perfection and set against a warm, welcoming backdrop.
Have you yourself had the opportunity to cruise the Saint Lawrence?
Not yet, but I am planning to do so in the near future. A few year back, I took a cruise to Alaska in the company several colleagues. Our aim was to achieve a better appreciation of the cruise product. It proved a magnificent experience and clearly demonstrated to me that Québec need not fear competition from Alaska. The genuineness and specifics of each of Québec’s nine ports of call provide for a diversity of countryscapes and attractions certain to delight cruiseshippers venturing into our midst. The Saguenay fjord, which cruiseshippers can admire for over a hundred kilometres, is doubtless one of our destination’s premiere attractions!
What is the nature of your involvement with Saint Lawrence Cruise Association (SLCA)?
I sit on the Board of Directors of SLCA in the capacity of director and represent Saguenay Port Authority. I especially enjoy the energy and drive of the members of the team dedicated to developing Destination Saint Lawrence. I firmly believe that SLCA has succeeded in building a credible reputation with government partners and cruise lines, and congratulate the association for unstinted efforts in this regard.
What would you like to see happen at the destination level in coming years?
I should like to see Destination Saint Lawrence become a MUST for Canadian cruiseshippers, just like Alaska is for their US counterparts. At the same time, I should like to see our Saguenay port of call become the No 1 cruise port in Canada!
Many, many thanks Mr Harvey for sharing with us your passion for cruiseshipping in Québec.