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November 17, 2011
Mario Sévigny: A committed visionary
We had the pleasure of meeting with Mario Sévigny, Coordinator, Port of Sept-Îles, who shared with us his passion for his involvement in Québec’s cruise industry.
- Mario Sévigny, could you apprise readers of the responsibilities incumbent upon you as Coordinator, Port of Sept-Îles?
As Coordinator with the Port of Sept-Îles, I liaise with the various tourism stakeholders who enjoy an association with cruise ship operations, namely the port authority, the city and the community at large. In addition, I am involved in developing excursions for cruiseshippers.
- How long have you worked in a position connected to the cruise industry?
After working in real estate, the restaurant industry and journalism, I joined the ranks of Tourism Sept Îles in 2006.
- Could you tell readers a little about your professional background?
In 2006, when I was President of Tourism Sept-Îles, we came up with the idea of transforming Sept-Îles into an international cruise ship port of call. From a Board of Directors volunteer, I went on to become Coordinator with Tourism Sept-Îles and ultimately Coordinator with the Port of Sept-Îles. Suffice it say that my involvement in the first five years has been intense, given the short laps of time between the tabling of our port of call ambitions and the arrival of the first cruise ship in May 2009!
- There are doubtless aspects of your work of which you are particularly fond. Could you tell readers about them?
I am particularly fond of the diversity which is part and parcel of the work that I do. There is no time for routine to set in given the challenges and opportunities with which we are presented on almost a daily basis. I love meeting people, getting them to work together and moving ahead with projects. I also enjoy a hand in the commercial development of our port of call in cooperation with Tourism Sept Îles, and adore meeting with clients, getting to know their needs and meeting their expectations.
- Are there any development projects planned for Sept-Îles that would be of particular interest to cruiseshippers?
Given the young age of our port of call, it would be fair to say that we operate in development mode every day. We inaugurated a new cruise ship dock in the fall of 2010 and continue to enhance our facilities. Our Rail and River initiative, which was devised especially for cruise ship passengers, includes a reproduction of an Innu campsite and is to be further developed to round out our overall offering and enable us to handle greater numbers of visitors.
- What distinguishes Sept-Îles from other Québec ports of call?
One distinguishing feature is that we are poised to welcome cruiseshippers into the heart of the city, all the while remaining in close proximity to the great outdoors. In addition, First Nations influence in our region lends a decidedly original touch to our port of call, not to mention that many excursions offered are based on a First Nations theme.
- How many cruiseshippers currently transit through Sept-Îles?
We welcomed 7500 passengers and crew members in 2009 and 2010. We anticipate similar numbers in 2012, with a considerable increase planned for 2013. Arrivals are currently concentrated in the fall season. Thus we are hard at work promoting our summer attributes, such as the great diversity of marine wildlife the likes of seals, whales and penguins in the months of May and June.
- What is your favourite Sept-Îles port of call activity?
Without hesitation, our Rail and River feature attraction for two reasons:
• The beauty of the scenery along the Moisie River, one of the top three salmon fishing rivers in the world. The spectacular vistas, as the train emerges from a tunnel 30 metres above the river, are nothing short of breathtaking.
• The First Nations tented venue presents an overview of Innu life and traditions.
Capacity currently stands at 200 visitors, a number we are seeking to increase to 300 as a result of arrangements made for next season.
- What is your favourite port of call restaurant?
I would be remiss were I not to mention the mouthwatering seafood pizza at Chez Omer. Absolutely delicious! That having been said, Sept-Îles is well endowed with a diversity of restaurants for all tastes. Also, visitors will want to sample a small local fruit known as chicoutai or cloudberry which closely resembles the blackberry native to our region. This local specialty can be sampled in a number of different forms: liqueur, jam, etc.
- Have you ever been on a cruise?
In 2006, I took a Caribbean cruise just a month prior to discussions about transforming Sept-Îles into an international port of call. This cruise experience motivated me strongly to pursue plans for Sept-Îles for it quickly became apparent to me that we were perfectly poised to provide visitors with a stopover experience equal to that of ports of call elsewhere in the world.
- What is the nature of your involvement with Saint Lawrence Cruise Association (SLCA)?
I am mainly responsible for developing ground excursions in outlying regions. I work together with the ports of call at Baie-Comeau and Havre Saint-Pierre to ensure that we provide cruiseshippers with a fleet of comfortable vehicles. The SLCA approach is highly dynamic and collaborative by nature, which is extremely important for a port of call as young as ours. This approach indeed allows us to contribute effectively to the development of Destination Saint Lawrence.
- In conclusion, what would you like to see for cruiseshippers and for Sept-Îles port of call in 2012?
In two short words: good weather, so that cruiseshippers are able to take full advantage of regional port of call attributes. I would also like to see more cruise ships call into port in summer, thereby enabling cruiseshippers to appreciate the full potential of our destination Sept-Îles !