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Did you know that...?

September 20, 2010

Meeting with a pioneer in Saint Lawrence cruise development

Ross Gaudreault

We recently had the privilege and pleasure of sitting down with one of the founding members of Saint Lawrence Cruise Association, Ross Gaudreault, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Québec. Allow us to share this passionately inspiring encounter with you. 

Mr Gaudreault, could you enlighten readers on your career with the Port of Québec?
For 23 years now, I have been the ‘big boss' at the Port of Québec. In this capacity, I have had the pleasure of contributing to port expansion and witnessing amazing growth over the years. I am particularly proud of our wonderful team of over 70 individuals and numerous port collaborators such as dockers, stevedores, etc. Our team has been responsible for making the port what it is and continues to contribute generously to the overall success of the Port of Québec. My role is to ensure that all manner of port activities are developed to their fullest potential.

Could you tell us how it all began in terms of cruise development on the Saint Lawrence?
Everything began back in 1987 when I stopped to admire a cruise ship docked in the port area. I remember well that the ship belonged to the Royal Viking Cruise Line... a magnificent sight to behold!  And it was then and there that I first became aware of Québecer curiosity and fascination with cruise ships. I can remember thinking that were the Port of Québec to develop the cruise sector, it would be a great way to interest Québecers in port operations while boosting port growth potential.

Although cargo operations (general merchandise, liquid and solid bulk shipments) form the core of Port of Québec activities, I will be the first to admit that they have considerably less glamour appeal than magnificent cruise ships bustling with passengers from abroad who have come to explore our historic city on the shores of the Saint Lawrence.

By engaging in cruise ship development, we were able to tap into powerful local support which has contributed handsomely to port development. We started by marketing Québec-the city-as a cruise destination. We then grouped together the efforts of the various ports of call across the region with a view to developing the Saint Lawrence as a destination. Enter the Cruise the Saint Lawrence Association.

Could you enlighten us about the financial spinoffs generated by port activities, the cruiseshipping segment in particular?
The Port of Québec is one of the top three ranking ports in Canada after Montréal and Vancouver in terms of aggregate tonnage. We generate over 6000 direct and indirect jobs in the region and port activities produce economic spinoffs valued at between $350 million and $400 million a year. That's a lot of money! Albeit the cruiseshipping sector represents only a small portion our activities, the sector contributes substantially from the economic standpoint. Just think, if you will, of the number of passengers and crew members who regularly disembark at Québec to enjoy land-based excursions which vary in duration from a couple of hours to several days!

I am particularly proud to report that the Port of Québec is not only a port of call but also a destination port for a number of ships. Thus, we have cruises which begin and end at Québec, with passengers often extending their trip, either before or after their planned cruise, to discover and enjoy the city.

Could you tell readers what you enjoy most about your job as President and CEO of the Port of Québec?
Results observed to date which owe to the sustained efforts of our entire team. Over the years, I have watched the port continue to grow and this is hugely satisfying for me. I am also proud to have travelled to raise cruise sector awareness of our destination, thereby contributing to overall port development. In fact, I can still remember the very first sector trade show I attended in Miami back in the spring of 1987.  At the time, the show attracted some 800 participants, whereas today this same event draws close to 15 000 attendees! 

In your opinion, what is Québec's most prized attribute for cruiseshippers?
I would say that the most prized attribute is the ready access to Old Québec! Indeed, passengers disembark into the heart of the city from where they enjoy a commanding view of the Fairmont Château Frontenac. It's love at first sight! Then there is the warm welcome visitors receive from the people of Québec the moment they step ashore. Québec is one of only a handful of world destinations where passengers enjoy quick, ready contact with the local people, and it is something that passengers particularly appreciate. Also, our city is very safe, a key consideration visitors point up time and again. According to a recent survey conducted by Holland America Line, Québec, as a port of call, enjoys the highest level of satisfaction of all destinations. A great honour of which we are justifiably proud!

Could you tell us of development projects on the drawing board for the Port of Québec?
We always have any number of development projects on the drawing board! This having been said, given the extent of investment in recent years, we are well poised to satisfy current needs. Our next challenge will be to enhance facility profitability by attracting greater numbers of cruise ships during the summer season. Although the month of September is usually quite busy, the period from June to August is usually much quieter. Yet our many summer events and festivals represent powerful drawing cards for summer visitors. Competition among destinations is keen in the summer months. Many ports of call are naturally attractive in summer and we have considerable work to do to convince cruise lines to develop new programs for the Saint Lawrence.

What do you hope to see in the coming year for cruise ships dropping anchor at the Port of Québec?
I hope that we continue efforts to attract cruise lines over a greater number of months of the year. And I would be particularly proud were a major cruise line operator to designate Québec at its home port. That would be a truly amazing accomplishment! Although I am planning to retire later this year, I shall continue to admire the magnificent ships which call into port at the foot of Old Québec!

Mr Gaudreault, we thank you immensely and congratulate you on the excellent work and handsome contribution to the development of cruiseshipping on the Saint Lawrence.

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